What Are Pneumococcal Infections?

The pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13) and the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23) protect against pneumococcal infections.

The bacteria that cause these infections spread through person-to-person contact. They can lead to serious infections like pneumonia, blood infections, and bacterial meningitis.

PCV13 protects against 13 types of pneumococcal bacteria, which cause the most common pneumococcal (new-muh-KOK-uhl) infections in kids. PPSV23 protects against 23 types. These vaccines prevent infections in children who get them, and help stop the infections from spreading to others.

When Are PCV and PPSV Immunizations Given?

Infants get PCV13 immunizations as a series of four injections:

  • the first at 2 months of age
  • then at 4 months, 6 months, and 12–15 months

Some kids older than age 2 also might need a shot of PCV13 if they have missed one or more shots, especially if:

  • They have a chronic health condition (such as heart or lung disease).
  • They have a condition that weakens the immune system (like asplenia, HIV infection, etc.).

A doctor can decide when and how often a child should get PCV13.

Doctors also recommend PPSV23 immunizations for kids 2–18 years old with some kinds of chronic health conditions. These include:

Why Are the PCV and PPSV Vaccines Recommended?

Children younger than 2 years old, adults over 65, and people with some medical conditions are at high risk for serious pneumococcal infections. These vaccines are very effective at preventing severe disease, hospitalization, and even death.

What Are the Possible Side Effects of PCV and PPSV Vaccines?

Kids may have redness, tenderness, or swelling where the shot was given. A child also might have a fever after getting the shot. There is a very small chance of an allergic reaction with any vaccine.

When to Delay or Avoid PCV and PPSV Immunization

These vaccines are not recommended if your child:

Caring for Your Child After PCV and PPSV Immunization

These vaccines may cause mild fever and soreness or redness in the injection area. Check with your doctor to see if you can give either acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain or fever and to find out the right dose.

When Should I Call the Doctor?

Call the doctor if:

  • Your child missed a dose in the series.
  • Your child has a serious allergic reaction or high fever after immunization.
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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2021 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved. Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.