Pneumococcal disease is caused by a specific type of bacterium called Streptococcus pneumoniae. Pneumococcal disease is most common in children, but it can also occur and cause significant complications in older adults or people with chronic conditions.

The pneumococcal bacterium is contagious and can lead to a variety of conditions. Some of them can be life-threatening. Conditions caused by pneumococcal infections include:

It’s important for many people to get vaccinated against pneumococcal disease.

Like all vaccines, the pneumococcal vaccine can have side effects. They’re usually mild and resolve in a few days.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the possible reactions.

Vaccination against a pneumococcal bacterial infection helps prevent you or your child from becoming sick from pneumococcal diseases. It also aids in preventing these diseases from spreading within your community.

Vaccination can’t always prevent all cases of pneumococcal disease. Nevertheless, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), even just one dose can help protect against a variety of pneumococcal infections.

There are two vaccines available for pneumococcal disease:

PCV13 (pneumococcal conjugate vaccine)

This vaccine provides protection against 13 strains of pneumococcal bacteria that commonly cause disease in children and adults. It’s given as several doses in children and one dose in adults.

PCV13 is recommended for:

  • babies
  • adults age 65 and older
  • people aged 2 to 64 with certain health conditions, such as diabetes mellitus, HIV, or chronic conditions of the heart, kidneys, liver, or lungs

PPSV23 (pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine)

This vaccine defends against 23 strains of pneumococcal bacteria. It’s typically given as one dose. It’s recommended for:

  • adults age 65 and older
  • people aged 2 to 64 with certain health conditions, such as diabetes mellitus, HIV, or chronic conditions of the heart, kidneys, liver, or lungs
  • adults between the ages of 19 and 64 who smoke tobacco products

As with any vaccine, you may experience some mild side effects after receiving the pneumococcal vaccine.

Mild side effects vary depending on which vaccine you receive. They’ll usually go away within a few days.

Possible side effects of the PCV13 vaccine include:

  • redness, pain, or swelling at the site of the shot
  • mild fever
  • chills
  • headache
  • drowsiness or tiredness
  • decreased appetite
  • irritability

The possible side effects of the PPSV23 vaccine include:

  • redness or pain at the site of the shot
  • mild fever
  • muscular aches and pains

Sometimes an adult or child can have a serious allergic reaction to the pneumococcal vaccine, but this is very rare.

Allergic reactions to any vaccine are very rare. The CDC estimates they occur in about 1 in 1 million doses.

Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction typically occur shortly after receiving the vaccine. Severe symptoms can include:

  • difficulty breathing
  • wheezing
  • rapid heartbeat
  • feeling lightheaded or as if you may faint
  • clammy skin
  • anxiety or a feeling of dread
  • confusion

If you or your child develops any of these symptoms following vaccination, seek prompt medical attention.

The CDC recommends that babies receive the PCV13 pneumococcal vaccine. This is given in several doses.

The first dose is given at 2 months of age. The subsequent doses are given at 4 months, 6 months, and between 12 to 15 months.

Common side effects in babies following PCV13 vaccination can include:

  • redness or swelling at the site of the shot
  • mild fever
  • a decrease in appetite
  • fussiness or irritability
  • sleepiness or drowsiness
  • disrupted sleep

On very rare occasions, serious side effects can occur, such as high fever, convulsions, or a skin rash. Contact your child’s pediatrician right away if you notice any of these symptoms.

Pneumococcal vaccination is recommended for the following groups:

  • all infants and children younger than 2 years
  • adults over the age of 65
  • people who have long-term or chronic health conditions, such as diabetes mellitus or significant cardiovascular disease
  • individuals with a weakened immune system
  • adults who smoke tobacco products

Be sure to speak to your doctor about which pneumococcal vaccine is right for you or your child.

Some groups of people shouldn’t receive a pneumococcal vaccination.

The following groups shouldn’t get the PCV13 vaccine:

  • individuals who are currently feeling ill
  • people who have had a life-threatening allergic reaction to any of the following:
    • a previous dose of PCV13
    • an earlier pneumococcal vaccine called PCV7
    • a vaccine containing the diphtheria toxoid (such as DTaP)
    • any components of the PCV13 vaccine

These groups of people shouldn’t receive the PPSV23 vaccine:

  • individuals who are currently feeling ill
  • pregnant women
  • people who have had a life-threatening allergic reaction to any of the following:
    • a previous dose of PPSV23
    • any components of the PPSV23 vaccine

If you’re concerned about an allergic reaction, ask your doctor to provide a list of the vaccine’s components.

Pneumococcal disease can potentially cause life-threatening illnesses in children, older adults, and people with chronic conditions.

There are two vaccines available to protect against pneumococcal disease. Which vaccine is given depends on the age and health status of the individual receiving it.

Side effects of the vaccine are often mild and resolve in a few days. In very rare cases, a severe allergic reaction may occur.

Be sure to talk to your doctor about which pneumococcal vaccine is appropriate for you or your child.