The pneumococcal vaccine protects against serious infections such as pneumonia, septicaemia and meningitis that can cause permanent brain damage and even death.
Who should have the vaccine?
There are 4 groups of people who are advised to get vaccinated against pneumococcal infections. These include:
- people aged 65 and over
- anyone from the ages of 2 to 64 with a health condition such as a serious heart or kidney condition that increases their risk of pneumococcal infection
- anyone at occupational risk, such as welders
Babies – Babies are routinely vaccinated with a type of pneumococcal vaccine known as the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) as part of their childhood vaccination programme.
Adults aged 65 or over – Adults aged 65 or over should be offered a type of pneumococcal vaccine known as the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPV). This one-off vaccination is very effective and protects against serious forms of pneumococcal infection.
People with health problems – The PPV vaccine is offered to children and adults aged from 2 to 64 years’ old who are at a higher risk of developing a pneumococcal infection than the general population. You are considered to be at a higher risk of a pneumococcal infection if you have:
- had your spleen removed, your spleen does not work properly, or you’re at risk of your spleen not working properly in future (for example, if you have coeliac disease)
- a long-term respiratory disease, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- heart disease, such as congenital heart disease
- chronic kidney disease
- chronic liver disease, such as liver cirrhosis
- a suppressed immune system caused by a health condition, such as HIV
- a suppressed immune system caused by medicines, such as chemotherapy or steroid tablets
- a cochlear implant (a hearing device)
- had a leak of cerebrospinal fluid (the clear fluid that surrounds the brain and spine) – this could be the result of an accident or surgery
Adults and children who are severely immunocompromised (including anyone with leukaemia, multiple myeloma, genetic disorders affecting the immune system, or after a bone marrow transplant) usually have a single dose of PCV followed by PPV.
Welders and metal workers – Some people with an occupational risk are advised to have the pneumococcal vaccine, including those who work with metal fumes, such as welders.
How is the vaccine given?
The vaccine is injected into your arm or your baby’s thigh.
How often is the pneumococcal vaccine given?
Babies born before this 1 January 2020 will be offered 3 doses, at 8 and 16 weeks and a booster at 1 year.
Babies born on or after 1 January 2020 are given 2 doses, which are usually given at 12 weeks and1 year
People aged 65 and over only need a single pneumococcal vaccination.
People with a long-term health condition may need just a single one-off pneumococcal vaccination or vaccination every 5 years, depending on their underlying health problem.
Booster doses of pneumococcal vaccine
- If you are at increased risk of a pneumococcal infection, you will be given a single dose of the PPV vaccine.
- If your spleen does not work properly or you have a chronic kidney condition, you may need booster doses of PPV every 5 years; this is because your levels of antibodies against the infection decrease over time.
What if you miss a dose of pneumococcal vaccine?
If you or your child has missed a routine dose of pneumococcal vaccine, speak to your GP or Child Health Nurse about when you can complete the course.
Is the vaccine safe?
The pneumococcal vaccine is very safe; it is not possible to catch a pneumococcal infection from the vaccine, as the vaccine does not contain any live bacteria.
What are the side effects of the pneumococcal vaccine?
There are no serious side effects listed for either the childhood or adult versions of the vaccine, apart from an extremely rare risk of serious allergic reaction.
Babies may experience mild side effects that include:
- a decreased appetite
- a slightly raised temperature
- redness and swelling at the site of the injection
- feeling sleepy or not sleeping well
Serious side effects are rare, and include:
- a high temperature, possibly leading to convulsions (fits)
- allergic reactions, such as an itchy skin rash
Adults and older children may experience mild side effects including:
- mild soreness or hardness at the site of the injection lasting 1 to 3 days
- a slightly raised temperature
More serious side effects are rare.
Who should not have the pneumococcal vaccine?
Occasionally, you or your child may need to delay having the vaccination or avoid it completely as in the following instances:
- If there has been a confirmed severe allergic reaction to the pneumococcal vaccine or any ingredient in the vaccine, it may not be possible for you to have it.
However, in the case of a mild reaction, such as a rash, it is generally safe to have the vaccine.
- If you or your child are mildly unwell at the time of the vaccination, it is safe to have the vaccine. But, if you or your child are more seriously ill (e.g. with a high temperature and feeling hot and shivery), it is best to delay the vaccination until after recovery.
- It is thought to be safe during pregnancy and while breastfeeding, but as a precaution, you may want to wait until you have had your baby if you are pregnant, unless the benefits of having the vaccine outweigh the risks to your child.
Can the Vaccine be given at the same time as other vaccines?
Yes.The PCV can safely be given at the same time as other vaccines in the schedule
Click here to view leaflet on the pneumococcal vaccine.