Vaccination is the only public-health measure likely to reduce the burden of pneumococcal diseases. In 2010, a group of European experts reviewed evidence on the burden of pneumococcal disease and the immunogenicity, clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of vaccination with 23-valent pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPV23). They also considered issues affecting the future use of PPV23 and pneumococcal conjugate vaccines in the elderly and adults at high risk of pneumococcal disease. PPV23 covers 80-90% of the serotypes responsible for invasive pneumococcal disease in Europe. Primary vaccination and revaccination with PPV23 are well tolerated, induce robust, long-lasting immune responses in elderly adults and are cost effective. Ensuring protection against pneumococcal disease requires monitoring of the changing epidemiology of pneumococcal serotypes causing invasive pneumococcal disease and improving vaccine coverage. In the future, it will be critically important for pneumococcal vaccination recommendations for elderly adults to be based on comparative evaluations of PPV23 and newer pneumococcal conjugate vaccines with regard to their long-term immunogenicity, clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness.