There are few comprehensive epidemiological studies of pneumonia in the developed world. Ascertainment and definition are important variables in the estimation of pneumonia incidence both in primary care and from hospital data. The available figures suggest a burden of disease in the order of 10-15 cases/1000 children per year and a hospital admission rate of 1-4/1000 per year. Both incidence and hospital admission are greatest in the youngest children and rapidly fall after the age of 5 years. In a majority of cases of community acquired pneumonia an organism is not identified. Viral infections are common and influenza A, B, respiratory syncitial virus (RSV) and parainfluenza 1, 2 and 3 are the most common viruses identified. Streptococcus pneumoniae is the most common bacterial cause. Broad brush calculations suggest that the NHS cost of childhood pneumonia in England is 6-8 million pound sterling per annum. This does not include family and social costs. There is potential for new vaccine strategies to decrease childhood pneumonia.