Adult Vaccines:Pneumococcal Disease:


If you have any queries or concerns about vaccines please contact your GP

What is pneumococcal disease?

Pneumococcal disease is an infection caused by the bacteria (bug) Streptococcus pneumoniae.

It can lead to pneumonia, septicaemia (a type of blood poisoning) and meningitis which can be life-threatening.

How do I get pneumococcal disease?

Pneumococcal bacteria are spread from person to person by coughing, sneezing or close contact.

The bacteria can be carried in the nose and throat without doing any harm but sometimes they can invade the lungs and bloodstream causing pneumonia, septicaemia and meningitis.

Who is at risk of pneumococcal disease?

Everybody is at risk of getting pneumococcal disease but older people and very young children are most at risk from infection. Particularly at risk are people who are have long term medical conditionshave no spleen or have a weakened immune system;

How can pneumococcal disease be prevented?

Pneumococcal disease can be prevented by vaccination.

Over the years Streptococcus pneumoniae has become resistant to many medications making the treatment of pneumococcal infections much more difficult. Prevention of disease through vaccination is now more important than ever.

Vaccination is recommended for those at risk of the disease.

Which pneumococcal vaccines are recommended in Ireland?

There are two different pneumococcal vaccines to prevent pneumococcal infections

  • Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) which is given to all babies as part of the routine childhood immunisation schedule
  • Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPV23) which is for those aged 65 years and older and those over 2 years with long term medical conditions. This vaccine protects against 23 types of pneumococcal disease including those most likely to cause severe disease.

How do I get vaccinated?

You should speak to your doctor, practice nurse or pharmacist about the pneumococcal vaccine (PPV23).

Hepatitis B

What is Hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is a viral disease that attacks the liver and may cause jaundice (yellow skin and eyes). In most people the virus clears up within 6 months and they become immune. But some people (about one in ten of those who get hepatitis B as an adult) remain infectious and may go on to develop cirrhosis or cancer of the liver over a period of years. Follow up is important to detect early changes and treat when necessary.

Hepatitis B is preventable by using a safe and effective vaccine.

How do people get Hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is caused by a virus which has been found in many body fluids, e.g. sweat, tears, saliva, semen and vaginal secretions. Infected blood is the most common way that the virus is spread from one person infected with hepatitis B to another. For hepatitis B to spread from one person to another there must be contact between infected body fluids and cuts or broken skin or mucous membranes.

Examples of how hepatitis B can be spread include

  • During sex with an infected partner.
  • From an infected mother to her newborn baby during delivery.
  • Users of injected drugs can infect others through sharing needles.
  • By sharing contaminated needles or other drug injecting equipment.
  • Through a blood transfusion in a country where blood is not tested for hepatitis B virus. All blood in the Ireland is tested.

If you have had other types of hepatitis, you can still get hepatitis B.

Who is most at risk of getting Hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is caused by a virus which has been found in many body fluids, e.g. sweat, tears, saliva, semen and vaginal secretions but infected blood is the most common way that the virus is transmitted from one person to another. This is why some groups are at a higher risk of catching the disease, e.g.

  • babies born to infected mothers,
  • intravenous drug users,
  • household contacts and sexual partners of infected people,
  • people who change sexual partners,
  • men who have sex with men,
  • individuals at high risk due to medical conditions,
  • health care professionals,
  • Gardaí and Rescue Service personnel,
  • prison staff and employees of security companies
  • people with a learning disability who attend an institution
  • families adopting or fostering children from countries where hepatits B is very common
  • people travelling to parts of the world where hepatitis B is very common

What are the symptoms of Hepatitis B?

Some people who have acute hepatitis B have no symptoms at all and others may have a severe illness that requires hospitalisation.

Symptoms that may occur include

  • Jaundice (yellow skin and eyes),
  • Itchy skin,
  • Fatigue and tiredness,
  • Poor appetite and weight loss,
  • Diarrhoea or Vomiting,
  • Joint pains

The illness may develop 2-6 months after injection with the virus but usually develops within 2-3 months. The virus may be found in the body before symptoms appear and may persist for several months.

Vaccines & Pregnancy

All pregnant women should continue to get vaccinated. Phone your GP to make an appointment.

Read more about pregnancy and coronavirus

Before pregnancy

MMR vaccine

Before getting pregnant, a woman should ensure that she is immune to infection from rubella (german measles). Rubella infection during pregnancy may cause miscarriage or stillbirth. Nine out of ten babies will have major birth defects such as deafness, blindness, brain damage or heart disease. This is known as Congenital Rubella Syndrome. Immunity to rubella can be checked by your GP.

Vaccination is the only way to prevent Congenital Rubella Syndrome. The MMR vaccine provides immunity to infection from Rubella. The MMR vaccine given before pregnancy provides protection against rubella infection in any future pregnancies.The MMR is a live vaccine and must be given at least one month before pregnancy. This will help protect both mother and her baby.

During pregnancy

The immunity developed by a mother after vaccination during pregnancy is passed on to her baby in the womb. This immunity helps protect the baby during the first few months of life.

Vaccines recommended in pregnancy

Flu Vaccine

The flu vaccine is inactive and can be given safely at any time during pregnancy. A pregnant woman who gets the flu is at risk for serious respiratory illness and complications. Getting flu in pregnancy can also so lead to premature birth and smaller babies. Flu vaccination during pregnancy provides immunity against influenza infection to babies in the first 6 months of life

Whooping Cough Vaccine

Women should get whooping cough vaccine during each pregnancy. Pregnant women’s immunity to whooping cough wanes during pregnancy and is unlikely to protect the baby. Therefore she should get vaccinated between 16 and 36 weeks of pregnancy. This is considered to be the best time in pregnancy to provide protection for the baby during the first few months of life.

After pregnancy

Whooping Cough Vaccine

Whooping cough vaccine should be offered to women in the week after birth who have not had a whooping cough vaccine in the past ten years to protect themselves and their baby

MMR Vaccine

During pregnancy immunity to rubella is checked routinely. MMR vaccination is only required if you do not have documentation of having had at least one MMR vaccine in the past.

The MMR given after pregnancy provides protection against rubella infection in any future pregnancies.

The MMR vaccine is safe to give while breastfeeding.

The MMR is a live vaccine and pregnancy must be avoided for one month following vaccination.

Tetanus – Immunisation

This page provides a brief summary of the disease and the vaccine that is available to prevent it.

What is tetanus?

Tetanus is a painful, often fatal disease. Bacteria found in the soil or manure release a toxin and cause painful muscle spasms and lockjaw.  The effects spread causing convulsions, breathing difficulties and abnormal heart rhythms.

How do people get tetanus?

Bacteria from the soil or manure enter the body through open cuts and burns. The wound may be as small or as insignificant as a pinprick.  Tetanus is not contagious (not spread from person to person). People get tetanus from the environment and not from other people.

What are the symptoms of tetanus?

Generalised symptoms occur in 80 % of cases. The first symptom is severe muscle spasm felt in the neck and jaw muscles (Lockjaw). This may be followed by painful muscle spasms in the back, abdomen and limbs. Fractures can be caused by the violent contractions. Difficulty in breathing and swallowing can develop. A spasm of part of the voice box can cause immediate death. The disease remains severe for 1 to 4 weeks, and then gradually subsides. Death may occur in 10%- 25% of cases.

Tetanus is a very serious disease. The risk is greatest for the very young or aged over 60. In infants tetanus can lead to permanent brain damage because of loss of oxygen. Fractures of limbs and spine can lead to permanent disability. Of the people who get tetanus 1 in 10 will die.  The severe muscles spasms interfere with breathing.

Although tetanus is now rare in Ireland due to routine immunisation programmes, the bacteria that cause the disease are still present in the soil. They cannot be eradicated from our environment. The only way to protect yourself from tetanus is by immunisation.

Who should get tetanus vaccine?

Tetanus is prevented by vaccination.