Acute exacerbations of chronic lung disease are usually associated with viral and bacterial pathogens. They contribute to declining lung function, poor quality of life and exert an excess burden on individuals, families, communities and the healthcare sector. Hence, preventing exacerbations is important in clinical management. Several vaccines providing protection against respiratory pathogens (Streptococcus pneumoniae, Bordetella pertussis and influenza) that can trigger exacerbations are available, but evidence to support their effectiveness in preventing exacerbations of chronic lung disease is limited. Candidate vaccines in pre-clinical or clinical development phases include those targeting Haemophilus influenzae, Moraxella catarrhalis, Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, respiratory syncytial virus and human rhinoviruses. However, it is likely to be several years before vaccines against these pathogens are available for children and adults with chronic lung diseases. For vaccination to play an important role in managing chronic lung disease efforts need to be directed at understanding how various pathogens cause exacerbations and alter long-term lung function.