Pneumococcal Vaccine

Pneumococcal Vaccine (PCV)

The pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) protects against pneumococcal infections. The bacterium is a leading cause of serious infections, including pneumonia, blood infections, and bacterial meningitis.

Children under 2 years old, adults over 65 years old, and people with certain medical conditions are most susceptible to serious pneumococcal infections. The pneumococcus bacterium is spread through person-to-person contact. The vaccine not only prevents the infection in children who receive it, it also helps stop its spread.

Immunization Schedule

PCV immunizations are given as a series of four injections starting at 2 months of age and following at 4 months, 6 months, and 12 to 15 months. Kids who miss the first dose or may have missed subsequent doses due to vaccine shortage should still receive the vaccine, and your doctor can give you a modified schedule for immunization.

Why the Vaccine Is Recommended

The most serious infections affect children younger than 2 years old, and the vaccine will protect them when they're at greatest risk.

PCV also is recommended for kids between 2 and 5 years of age who are at high risk for serious pneumococcal infections because they have medical problems such as:

  • sickle cell anemia
  • a damaged spleen or no spleen
  • cochlear implants
  • a disease that affects the immune system, such as diabetes or cancer
  • receiving medications that affect the immune system, such as steroids or chemotherapy

In addition, these high-risk children may also receive the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPV) in addition to the PCV when they're older than 24 months.

The PCV vaccine should be considered for all other unvaccinated 2- to -5-year-olds, especially those who are under 3 years of age; are of Alaska Native, American Indian, or African American descent; or who attend group childcare centers.

Possible Risks

Children who receive the PCV vaccine may have redness, tenderness, or swelling where the shot was given. A child may also have a fever after receiving the shot.

When to Delay or Avoid Immunization

  • if your child is currently sick, although simple colds or other minor illnesses should not prevent immunization
  • if your child has had a severe allergic reaction to a previous dose of the vaccine

Caring for Your Child After Immunization

The vaccine may cause mild fever, and soreness and redness in the area where the shot was given. Depending on the age of your child, 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

  • if your child missed a dose in the series
  • if a severe allergic reaction or high fever occurs after immunization