The pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) and the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV) protect against pneumococcal infections. The pneumococcus bacterium is a leading cause of serious infections, including pneumonia, blood infections, and bacterial meningitis.
The bacterium is spread through person-to-person contact. So the vaccine not only prevents the infection in children who receive it, it also helps stop the spread of the infection.
PCV immunizations are given as a series of four injections:
- first at 2 months of age
- then at 4 months, 6 months, and 12-15 months
Healthy kids ages 2 to 5 who miss the first dose or may have missed subsequent doses due to vaccine shortage should still receive the vaccine. Kids ages 2 to 6 who were vaccinated in the past but have immunocompromising conditions (like asplenia, HIV infection, etc.) may need additional doses of PCV. Unvaccinated kids with these conditions between the ages of 7 to 18 might get a single dose. Your doctor can determine when and how often your child needs to be vaccinated.
Kids 2-18 years old should also receive the PPSV vaccine if they have chronic health conditions, including:
- heart, lung, or liver disease
- kidney failure
- weakened immune system (such as from cancer or HIV infection)
- cochlear implants
Why the Vaccine Is Recommended
Children younger than 2 years old, adults over 65, and people with certain medical conditions are most susceptible to serious pneumococcal infections. The pneumococcal vaccine is very effective at preventing severe disease, hospitalization, and death.
Children who receive a pneumococcal vaccine may have redness, tenderness, or swelling where the shot was given. A child also might have a fever after receiving the shot. There is a very small chance of an allergic reaction with any vaccine.
When to Delay or Avoid Immunization
The vaccine is not recommended if your child:
- is currently sick, although simple colds or other minor illnesses should not prevent immunization
- has had a severe allergic reaction to a previous dose of a pneumococcal vaccine or to the DTaP vaccine
Caring for Your Child After Immunization
The vaccine may cause mild fever and soreness or redness in the area where the shot was given. Depending on your child's age, pain and fever may be treated with acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Check with your doctor to see if you can give either medication, and to find out the appropriate dose.
When to Call the Doctor
- Call if your child missed a dose in the series.
- Call if a severe allergic reaction or high fever occurs after immunization.
Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Date reviewed: February 2014