What It Is and What It Protects Against

The pneumococcal vaccine protects against pneumococcal disease (an infection caused by the bacteria, Streptococcus pneumoniae). Infection of this disease can lead to blood infections, pneumonia, and meningitis; and meningitis can lead to serious complications, including brain damage. Because some strains of the bacteria are resistant to drugs, vaccination serves as a highly important means of prevention.

General Use

The PCV13 (pneumococcal conjugate vaccine) protects against 13 of the 90-plus types of pneumococcal bacteria. It is a four-dose series, recommended in children, as follows:

  • First dose:  2 months old
  • Second dose:  4 months old
  • Third dose:  6 months old
  • Fourth dose:  12 to 15 months old

*Children who began immunization with the older PCV7 (which protects against seven types of pneumococcal bacteria) can continue the series using PCV13.

In addition to infants, older children (between the ages of 2 to 5) are recommended to get the PCV13. One dose is recommended for healthy children who have not completed either the PCV7 or PCV13 series.

Additionally, children (between 2 and 6) with certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, damaged or no spleen, HIV/AIDs, and chronic heart or lung disease, are recommended to get the PCV13.

  • one dose of PCV13 (if they got three doses already, before the age of 2), or
  • two doses of PCV13 (if they got one or two doses already of PCV7 or PCV13).

Who Should Not Get It

Children who meet the following criteria should not get the PCV13 vaccine:

  • experienced severe allergic reaction from a past dose of the PCV7 or PCV13 vaccine, or to any vaccine that contained diphtheria toxoid (as in the DTaP)
  • children who are moderately-to-severely ill should wait until a full recovery before getting vaccinated

Potential Side Effects

Though the risk of serious harm from the vaccine is small compared with the actual untreated disease, the vaccine does hold some risk, from mild to severe side effects.

Mild side effects include:

  • soreness, redness, or swelling at the site of the shot
  • drowsiness
  • temporary loss of appetite
  • mild fever (risk of higher fever is about one in 20)