Health Library

Health Library

Pneumococcus

What is pneumococcus?

Pneumococcus is a bacteria that can cause serious illness in children, including pneumonia, infection in the blood, and meningitis (infection in the tissues around the brain and spinal cord). In young children, pneumococcal infection often causes otitis media (middle ear infection), which can very rarely lead to more serious complications, although fairly rare  such as meningitis.

Can I prevent pneumococcus?

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.  It's recommended for all adults 65 years and older and for anyone who is 2 years and older at high risk for disease. It is also recommended for adults 19 through 64 years of age who smoke or have asthma.

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

When is PCV13 given?

PCV13 can be given along with other childhood vaccines and is recommended at the following ages:

  • 2 months

  • 4 months

  • 6 months

  • 12 to 15 months

Children who are moderately to severely sick or have a fever should wait until they are well to receive the vaccine. Children who have had a prior serious reaction to any type of pneumococcal vaccine should not receive PCV13. According to the CDC, healthy children 24 months through 59 months of age who are unvaccinated or have not completed the PCV13 series should get one dose. It is recommended that a single dose of PCV13 be given to children 6 through 18 years of age with certain medical conditions (such as sickle cell disease, HIV or other immunocompromising condition, cochlear implant, or cerebrospinal fluid leaks), regardless of whether they have previously received a pneumococcal vaccine. Talk with your health care provider for more details.

What are the risks from PCV13?

A vaccine, like any medication, is capable of causing serious problems, such as severe allergic reactions. However, the most common reactions to PCV13 include the following:

  • 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 difficulty breathing, wheezing, (squeaking sounds while breathing due to tight airways), weakness, fast heartbeat, hives, and paleness. Report these or any other unusual signs immediately to your child's health care 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 health care provider.

Pneumococcus - WellSpan Health

Online Medical Reviewer: Akin, Louise, RN
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
© 2014 WellSpan Health. All Rights Reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

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