Has someone died from the pneumonia vaccine?

Pneumococcal vaccination

Pneumococci are globally occurring bacteria of the genus Streptococcus pneumoniae. Vaccination against pneumococci can help prevent infections, some of which are life-threatening.

Short version:

  • Invasive pneumococcal infections (pneumonia and meningitis, blood poisoning) are very common in Austria and must be reported - in 2018, 611 cases were registered.
  • An infection with pneumococci does not necessarily mean that the person affected will actually get it. Pneumococci are found in the upper respiratory tract in 40–70% of the healthy population, but without causing any symptoms of the disease.
  • In certain cases, however, the germs can sometimes trigger life-threatening diseases such as lung or meningitis.
  • Small children, older people (> 50 years) and people with chronic illnesses or immune deficiencies are particularly at risk.

How are pneumococci transmitted?

In principle, infection with pneumococci can occur at any time, but a seasonal increase can be observed in the winter months. The bacteria are transmitted directly from person to person via droplet infection - i.e. when speaking, sneezing or coughing.

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What diseases cause pneumococci?

An infection with pneumococci can lead to different diseases:


Locally limited:

Purulent meningitis is most common in young children, while pneumonia comes first in adults. A pneumococcal infection can be so rapid and aggressive that even intensive medical measures cannot prevent the patient's death.

What vaccines are there?

Over 90 different types of pneumococci are currently known, only 23 of which are responsible for more than 90% of the diseases. Vaccines are available against many of these serotypes, with the help of which the risk of developing pneumococcal infections can be significantly reduced.

The pneumococcal vaccination is a so-called dead vaccine, which means that the vaccine contains non-reproductive components of the pathogen. After the vaccination, the body begins to produce defense substances (antibodies) against the bacteria. If a vaccinated person later becomes infected with pneumococci, these are intercepted by the antibodies and thus the onset of the disease is prevented.

The immune response is directed against the “polysaccharide antigens” contained in the vaccine. These are contained in the various vaccines either in pure form (unconjugated / polysaccharide vaccine) or bound to a protein (conjugated / conjugate vaccine). Conjugate vaccines were developed after the polysaccharide vaccines were shown not to induce adequate immune responses in children under 2 years of age.

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Currently stand in Austria 3 different pneumococcal vaccines to disposal:

1. PNC10

  • 10-fold conjugate vaccine
  • covers around 50% of the pneumococcal strains found in children
  • for children from the 3rd month of life

2. PNC13

  • 13-fold conjugate vaccine
  • covers around 70% of the pneumococcal strains occurring in children and contains 13 of the 14 most common pneumococcal serotypes in Europe
  • for children from 3 months of age and for adults

3. PPV23

  • 23-fold polysaccharide vaccine
  • covers 90% of the diseases caused by pneumococci
  • for children from the age of 2 and adults

When should the vaccination take place?

The vaccination schedule varies depending on age, belonging to certain risk groups and pneumococcal vaccinations that have already taken place.


To prevent invasive pneumococcal diseases, it is advisable to start vaccination as early as possible (from 3 months of age). The incidence peak for meningitis is in the second half of life. The vaccine can be given at the same time as the 6-fold vaccination (in different parts of the body). The vaccinations take place in the 3rd, 5th and 12th month of life.

  • PNC10: for children up to 2 years of age included in the free vaccination program (children with risks up to 5 years of age)
  • PNC13: not included in the free vaccination program


For adults who have had a complete series of vaccinations in childhood, no further booster vaccinations are required for persons (without increased risk) up to the age of 50. From the age of 50, the risk of severe pneumococcal infections increases significantly. Smoking and high alcohol consumption also increase the risk of the disease.

Adults over 50 years of age (without increased risk):

  • Without previous vaccination: first PNC13, after about one year PPV23
  • With previous PPV23 vaccination: after one year PNC13
  • Further boosts are recommended approx. 6 years after the last PPV23 vaccination.

People of all ages at increased risk

People at increased risk are those who either have a high risk of developing the disease or who are at increased risk of developing a severe disease. The series of vaccinations should be started as soon as possible after the increased risk has been determined.

  • Premature babies, children with failure to thrive
  • Children with neurological diseases (epilepsy)
  • Immunocompromised (HIV, before organ transplants)
  • Patients with cochlear implants or CSF fistula
  • chronically ill
  • after a spleen removal
  • Celiac disease
  • before starting immunosuppressive therapy
  • Chronic diseases: hematopoietic organs, lung cancer, cardiovascular diseases (except high blood pressure), asthma, emphysema, COPD, diabetes, other metabolic diseases, liver cirrhosis, kidney diseases

Without a previous vaccination:

  • Start of vaccination in the 1st year of life: 1st dose of PNC as soon as it is diagnosed, 2nd dose of PNC after at least 8 weeks, 3rd dose of PNC after 7–10 months, booster 1 dose of PPV23 from the 3rd year of life
  • Start of vaccination in the 2nd year of life: 1st dose of PNC as soon as it is determined, 2nd dose of PNC after at least 8 weeks, booster 1 dose of PPV23 from the 3rd year of life
  • Start of vaccination in the 3rd to 5th Year of life: 2 doses of PNC10 every 2 months or 1 dose of PNC13, booster 1 dose of PPV23 after at least 8 weeks
  • Start of vaccination from the age of 6: 1 dose of PNC13, after 8 weeks 1 dose of PPV23, refreshment of the same series of vaccinations every 6 years

With previous vaccination:

The vaccination schedule for people at increased risk who have already received a vaccination or an incomplete series of vaccinations depends on the age of the person concerned and on the vaccines already received.

Details can be found here: Vaccination plan Austria 2019

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Astrid Leitner
Medical review:
Dr. Ludwig Kaspar
Editorial editing:
Mag. Julia Wild

Updated on:

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