- Only one in five (21%) indicate that they have reasonably good knowledge of pneumococcal disease.
- More than 600,000 people aged 65 and older are at risk of contracting pneumococcal disease in Ireland.
- 76% of people are unaware that there is a pneumococcal vaccine available for free as part of the National Immunisation Programme  for adults over the age of 65 and at-risk adults. 
2nd November 2021 – New research has highlighted that 57% of people in Ireland are unaware that pneumococcal is a vaccine preventable disease.
The new research carried out by Behaviour & Attitudes, on behalf of MSD Ireland examined the awareness and knowledge of pneumococcal disease and showed that awareness levels of the disease and related vaccination programme remain quite low.
Only one in five (21%) indicated that they have reasonably good knowledge of pneumococcal disease.
Invasive pneumococcal disease, more generally known as ‘pneumo’, is a major cause of illness and death in Ireland, particularly among the very young, the elderly and those with a weakened immune system. 
A pneumococcal infection can cause many types of illness that range from mild to very severe, including pneumonia, meningitis, sinus, ear, bone and blood infections . 62% of people surveyed either did not know or knew very little about the serious illnesses caused by pneumococcal disease .
More than 600,000 people aged 65 and older are at risk of contracting pneumococcal in Ireland, but despite this, 76% of all people surveyed have not heard of the national vaccination programme for pneumococcal disease.
The pneumococcal vaccine is free of charge as part of the National Immunisation Programme for the over 65s and at-risk groups, such as people with diabetes, heart disease or respiratory conditions and patients receiving chemotherapy. Of those who develop an invasive pneumococcal infection, one in four will get pneumonia, one in four will get meningitis, and one in 10 will die.
Pneumococcal infection is responsible for 50% of community acquired pneumonia and bacteraemia where the overall mortality rate can be as high as 25%. It can also cause a wide variety of other infections including sinusitis, osteomyeltitis, bronchitis and otitis media.
Of those who haven’t received the pneumococcal vaccine, 56% said it was because they did not know anything about it, and 42% said they have never been advised to get the vaccine. This highlights the important role of healthcare professionals in recommending vaccination .
In fact, 86% of those surveyed revealed they would take the pneumococcal vaccine if recommended to them by their GP. The sharing of vaccine information by healthcare professionals, such as GP’s, other HCPs and pharmacists, was shown to be essential.
Looking at vaccination very generally, two in five (43%) said that the pandemic has served to make them more positive about vaccination. The survey, which explored respondents’ knowledge and attitudes to the National Immunisation Programme, also found that 78% of those surveyed would encourage a family member or friend to avail of the pneumococcal vaccine after receiving a more focused explanation of the disease.
Speaking about the importance of contacting a GP for information about pneumococcal disease, GP, Dr. Gary Stack said: “Throughout the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how important it is to prioritise your health, and how essential it is you are up to date on vaccinations. ‘Pneumo’ or pneumococcal disease is a major cause of illness and death in Ireland, particularly among the very young, the elderly and those with a weakened immune system. It’s therefore important that anyone who is eligible for the vaccine as part of the National Immunisation Programme, gets the information they need regarding pneumo and increases their awareness of the disease.”
“More than 600,000 people aged 65 and older are at risk of contracting pneumococcal in Ireland this year, and increased understanding of the preventive healthcare options available is essential to the protection of these individuals. Speak to your GP today if you’ve any questions or concerns or encourage your loved ones to speak to their doctor to find out more about the prevention of pneumococcal disease.”
Kieran O’Leary, CEO, Diabetes Ireland, “It is important those at risk are aware of preventive healthcare measures and the serious illnesses they can prevent. Through your Diabetes team or healthcare professional, prioritise your health and wellbeing, and talk to them to learn more about pnuemo.”
Neil Johnson, CEO of Croí, the West of Ireland Heart Charity, said: “We would urge those with weakened immune systems, including people with heart disease, to know pneumo, especially during the winter months, which are a time to catch serious illness and infection. Know how you can be protected against pneumo by speaking with your GP or talk to Croí.”
The #KnowPneumo campaign aims to raise awareness about pneumococcal disease and its potential to cause serious illness. A number of patient organisations have joined forces as part of the initiative, namely Age Action, Diabetes Ireland, the Asthma Society of Ireland and Croí.
To find out more about the campaign, check out www.pneumo.ie or follow #KnowPneumo online.