Your Child's Immunizations: Pneumococcal Vaccines (PCV, PPSV)

The pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13) and the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23) protect against pneumococcal infections, which are caused by the pneumococcus bacterium.

The bacterium spreads through person-to-person contact and can cause such serious infections as pneumonia, blood infections, and bacterial meningitis.

PCV13 protects against 13 types of pneumococcal bacteria (the types that cause the most common pneumococcal infections in kids). PPSV23 protects against 23 types. These vaccines not only prevent infections in children who are immunized, but also help stop the infections from spreading.

Immunization Schedule

PCV13 immunizations are given to all infants as a series of four injections:

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

Certain kids older than age 2 also might need a shot of PCV13; for example, if they have missed one or more shots, or received an older version of the vaccine in the past. This is especially true if they have a chronic health condition (such as heart or lung disease) or one that weakens the immune system (like asplenia, HIV infection, etc.). Your doctor can determine when and how often your child will need to receive PCV13.

PPSV23 immunizations are recommended as additional protection against pneumococcal disease in kids ages 2-18 years if they have certain chronic health conditions, including heart, lung, or liver disease; diabetes; kidney failure; a weakened immune system (such as from cancer or HIV infection); or cochlear implants.

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

Possible Risks

Children who receive these vaccines 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

These vaccines are 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

These vaccines 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 2015