Pneumococcal vaccines

Two conjugate vaccines and one polysaccharide vaccine are available for the prevention of pneumococcal diseases. They differ from each other both immunologically and regarding the number of serotypes against which they provide protection. 

  • The conjugate vaccines induce immunological memory, while the polysaccharide vaccine does not.
  • The conjugate vaccines provide protection against mucosal pneumococcal infections and nasopharyngeal carriage, whereas the polysaccharide vaccine does not. 

However, the polysaccharide vaccine is effective against the highest number of pneumococcal serotypes.

Many factors influence the use and recommendations for the use of pneumococcal vaccines. In particular, they include

  • the recipient’s estimated disease risk, including their age and chronic illnesses
  • the effectiveness of each vaccine product against different forms of disease
  • price of the vaccine
  • the willingness of the recipient or treatment provider to pay for the vaccine.

These pages contain information about pneumococcal vaccines, their use, and vaccination schedules by age and at-risk group. The sub-pages also list key scientific works underpinning the current recommendations.

Pneumococcal vaccines

Conjugate vaccines

PCV10 (Synflorix) registered for children aged under 5 years only
PCV13 (Prevenar 13) registered for children and adults 

Read more about the conjugate vaccines

Polysaccharide vaccine

PPV23 (Pneumovax) registered for children aged 2 years and over and adults.

Read more about the polysaccharide vaccine

Pneumococcal vaccines in the national vaccination programme

The pneumococcal vaccines included in the national vaccination programme are free for the recipients.

Young children are highly susceptible to pneumococcal diseases. This is why a 10-valent conjugate vaccine (Synflorix) is offered to all children aged under 5 as part of the national vaccination programme.

Special groups of children aged under 5 with a chronic illness receive not only the conjugate vaccine but also the polysaccharide vaccine (Pneumovax).

Stem cell transplant recipients are the only special group who receive free pneumococcal conjugate vaccines on medical grounds (Prevenar 13).

Pneumococcal vaccinations in the national vaccination programme

What are the benefits of the pneumococcal vaccine? 

There is undisputable evidence of the effectiveness of pneumococcal vaccines in children and indirect effectiveness among the remaining population. The vaccine reduces the incidence of serious pneumococcal diseases by approx. 75%. 

In a large-scale study conducted in the Netherlands focusing on its effectiveness in subjects aged over 65, a 13-valent conjugate vaccine reduced the incidence of serious pneumococcal diseases (meningitis, sepsis) by 75% and pneumonia cases caused by all pathogens by approx. 5%. Effectiveness could not be proven in subjects aged 85 and over, and the vaccine did not reduce fatalities.

The polysaccharide vaccine prevents approx. 70% of severe cases of pneumococcal disease, whereas evidence of protection against pneumonia is less convincing. It is estimated that the protection against pneumococcal pneumonia is 15% to 30% and declines over a few years.

Pneumococcal vaccinations of recipients aged over 65

The pneumococcal serotypes circulating among the population and the possibility of preventing the diseases they cause by each vaccine product are closely monitored.

The indirect effects that the young children's vaccination programme produce on such groups as older people will strengthen as the programme continues. 

The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare will update the recommendations as necessary.

In lack of reliable detailed research evidence, no universal recommendation on the optimal vaccination schedule and combination of vaccines can be given except for young children.