Children's Health and Wellness

Pneumococcal Infection in Children

What is pneumococcal infection?

Pneumococcal infection is caused by the pneumococcus bacteria. It can cause serious illness in children. This includes pneumonia, infection in the blood, and meningitis (infection in the tissues around the brain and spinal cord). In young children, pneumococcal infection often causes ear infections, which can lead to hearing loss, or rarely more serious complications, such as meningitis.

Can I prevent pneumococcal infection?

The best way to prevent pneumococcal disease is by getting vaccinated. The pneumococcal vaccine is a shot that helps protect against some of the many types of pneumococcal bacteria. There are currently 2 types of vaccines:

  • Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13 or Prevnar). This vaccine protects against the 13 types of pneumococcal that causes severe illness in children. It can also help prevent some ear infections. PCV13 protects children by preparing their bodies to fight the bacteria. Adults with certain medical conditions can also get this vaccine.

  • Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23). This vaccine protects against 23 types of bacteria. This vaccine is given to adults and is only given to children who have long-term conditions that makes them high-risk. Talk with your child's healthcare provider about whether or not your child is high-risk. 

It is also important for your child to get a flu shot every year because having the flu increases your risk of getting pneumococcal disease.

When is PCV13 given?

PCV13 is a routine childhood immunizations. It is given as a series at these ages:

  • 2 months

  • 4 months

  • 6 months

  • 12 to 15 months

Children between 2 to 4 years who have not had the vaccine or who have not finished the series of 4 doses should get one dose of PCV13.

What are the risks from PCV13?

A vaccine, like any medicine, can cause very rare serious problems, such as severe allergic reactions. However, the most common reactions to PCV13 include:

  • Pain and redness at the location where shot was given

  • Fever

  • Muscle aches

  • An allergic reaction would most likely occur within a few minutes to a few hours of the shot. Signs of an allergic reaction may include trouble breathing, wheezing, (squeaking sounds while breathing due to tight airways), weakness, fast heartbeat, hives, and paleness. Report these or any other unusual signs right away to your child's healthcare provider.

How do I care for my child after immunization with PCV13?

  • Give your child an aspirin-free pain reliever, as directed by your child's healthcare provider.

Print Source: Pneumococcal )Streptococcus pneumoniae) conjugate vaccines in children, Up To date
Print Source: Pneumococcal pneumonia in children, Up To Date
Online Source: Immunization for Streptococcus Pneumoniae Infections in High-Risk Children, American Academy of Pediatricshttp://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2014/11/18/peds.2014-2811.abstract
Online Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pneumococcal Polysaccharide VIShttp://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/ppv.html
Online Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2014 Recommended Immunization for CHildren Birth Through 6http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/downloads/child/0-18yrs-child-combined-schedule.pdf
Online Source: Pneumococcal Vaccinations, CDChttp://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/pneumo/default.htm
Online Source: Pneumoccocal Disease--Q&A, CDChttp://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/pneumo/dis-faqs.htm
Online Source: Pneumoccocal Disease In-Short, CDChttp://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/pneumo/in-short-both.htm#who
Online Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pneumococcal Vaccination, Who Needs It? http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/pneumo/vacc-in-short.htm
Online Source: Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine: What You Need to Know, American Academy of Pediatricshttp://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/immunizations/Pages/Pneumococcal-Conjugate-Vaccine-What-You-Need-to-Know.aspx
Online Editor: Metzger, Geri K.
Online Medical Reviewer: Freeborn, Donna, PhD, CNM, FNP
Online Medical Reviewer: Lentnek, Arnold, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 10/1/2016
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