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Safety & Prevention

Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine: What You Need to Know

​​​Why get vaccinated?

Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine can prevent pneumococcal disease.

Pneumococcal disease refers to any illness caused by pneumococcal bacteria. These bacteria can cause many types of illnesses, including pneumonia, which is an infection of the lungs. Pneumococcal bacteria are one of the most common causes of pneumonia.

Besides pneumonia, pneumococcal bacteria can also cause:

  • Ear infections

  • Sinus infections

  • Meningitis (infection of the tissue covering the brain and spinal cord)

  • Bacteremia (infection of the blood)

Anyone can get pneumococcal disease, but children under 2 years of age, people with certain medical conditions or other risk factors, and adults 65 years or older are at the highest risk.

Most pneumococcal infections are mild. However, some can result in long-term problems, such as brain damage or hearing loss. Meningitis, bacteremia, and pneumonia caused by pneumococcal disease can be fatal.

Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine

Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine helps protect against bacteria that cause pneumococcal disease. There are three pneumococcal conjugate vaccines (PCV13, PCV15, and PCV20). The different vaccines are recommended for different people based on age and medical status. Your health care provider can help you determine which type of pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, and how many doses, you should receive.​

Infants and young children usually need 4 doses of pneumococcal conjugate vaccine. These doses are recommended at 2, 4, 6, and 12–15 months of age. 

Older children and adolescents might need pneumococcal conjugate vaccine depending on their age and medical conditions or other risk factors if they did not receive the recommended doses as infants or young children.

Adults 19 through 64 years old with certain medical conditions or other risk factors who have not already received pneumococcal conjugate vaccine should receive pneumococcal conjugate vaccine.

Adults 65 years or older who have not previously received pneumococcal conjugate vaccine should receive pneumococcal conjugate vaccine.

Some people with certain medical conditions are also recommended to receive pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (a different type of pneumococcal vaccine, known as PPSV23). Some adults who have previously received a pneumococcal conjugate vaccine may be recommended to receive another pneumococcal conjugate vaccine.

Talk with your health care provider

Tell your vaccine provider if the person getting the vaccine: 

Has had an allergic reaction after a previous dose of any type of pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13, PCV15, PCV20, or an earlier pneumococcal conjugate vaccine known as PCV7, or to any vaccine containing diphtheria toxoid (for example, DTaP), or has any severe, life-threatening allergies.

In some cases, your health care provider may decide to postpone pneumococcal conjugate vaccination to a future visit.

People with minor illnesses, such as a cold, may be vaccinated. People who are moderately or severely ill should usually wait until they recover.

Your health care provider can give you more information.

Risks of a vaccine reaction

  • Redness, swelling, pain, or tenderness where the shot is given, and fever, loss of appetite, fussiness (irritability), feeling tired, headache, muscle aches, joint pain, and chills can happen after pneumococcal conjugate vaccination.

  • Young children may be at increased risk for seizures caused by fever after pneumococcal conjugate vaccine if it is administered at the same time as inactivated influenza vaccine. Ask your health care provider for more information.

  • People sometimes faint after medical procedures, including vaccination. Tell your provider if you feel dizzy or have vision changes or ringing in the ears.

  • As with any medicine, there is a very remote chance of a vaccine causing a severe allergic reaction, other serious injury, or death.

What if there is a serious problem?

An allergic reaction could occur after the vaccinated person leaves the clinic. If you see signs of a severe allergic reaction (hives, swelling of the face and throat, difficulty breathing, a fast heartbeat, dizziness, or weakness), call 9-1-1 and get the person to the nearest hospital.

For other signs that concern you, call your health care provider.

Adverse reactions should be reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). Your health care provider will usually file this report, or you can do it yourself. Visit the VAERS website or call 1-800-822-7967. VAERS is only for reporting reactions, and VAERS staff do not give medical advice.

The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program

The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) is a federal program that was created to compensate people who may have been injured by certain vaccines. Claims regarding alleged injury or death due to vaccination have a time limit for filing, which may be as short as two years. Visit the VICP website or call 1-800-338-2382 to learn about the program and about filing a claim. 

How can I learn more?​

  • Ask your healthcare provider. 

  • Call your local or state health department.

  • Visit the website of the Food and Drug Administration​ (FDA) for vaccine package inserts and additional information. 

  • Contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

Last Updated
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Vaccine Information Statement
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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