More than 750,000 people aged 65 and older are at risk of contracting pneumococcal in Ireland, ahead of the traditional winter vaccination season.
GP Dr Gary Stack is urging people to know the facts about pneumococcal disease and how it can be prevented.
Invasive pneumococcal disease, or pneumo as it is also known, is a major cause of illness and death in Ireland, particularly among the very young, those over the age of 65 and those with a weakened immune system.
A pneumococcal infection is caused by pneumococcal bacteria, which is 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.
This can cause many types of illness that range from mild to very severe, including pneumonia, meningitis, sinus, ear, bone and blood infections.
The pneumococcal vaccine is free of charge as part of the National Immunisation Programme for the over 65s and identified at-risk groups, such as people with diabetes, heart disease or chronic lung conditions and patients receiving chemotherapy.
Speaking about the importance of contacting a GP for information about pneumococcal disease, GP, Dr. Gary Stack said: 'As we enter into a prime time for those with weakened immune systems to catch infection that can cause serious illness, winter represents a significant risk with the return to normal activities, the need to be protected while engaging with society is more important than ever.
'I would encourage anyone who falls within a vulnerable category to speak to their GP to find out more information about the prevention of pneumococcal disease.'
Get to Know Pneumo, check out www.pneumo.ie