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The pneumococcal vaccine protects against infections caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae. These bacteria can cause:
Infections can be quite serious. For example, meningitis can cause severe complications including:
Infections caused by S. pneumoniae can also be difficult to treat. Some strains are resistant to antibiotics. Therefore, prevention is very important.
There are currently two pneumococcal vaccines used in the United States.
The PCV13 (pneumococcal conjugate vaccine) protects against 13 types of pneumococcal bacteria. There are more than 90 types of pneumococcal bacteria. A four-dose series is recommended in children, as follows.
Healthy children who have not finished vaccination by age 2 should get one dose. Children with certain chronic diseases may need additional doses between the ages of 2 and 6. Children who began immunization with the older PCV7 vaccine can continue the series using PCV13.
The PPSV (pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine) protects against 23 types of bacteria. It’s recommended for all adults over 65 years old. It can also be given to younger people with certain health conditions like:
This vaccine is also used in smokers and those with asthma. People usually only need one dose of PPSV. However, some people may need a second dose.
Certain people should not receive this vaccination. This includes anyone who has:
PPSV is not recommended for use during pregnancy. Women at high risk of disease should get it before becoming pregnant.
Serious side effects from these vaccines are extremely rare. However, some people may have mild side effects like:
The risk of higher fever is about one in 20 with PCV13.
Written by: Amy Boulanger
Medically reviewed on: Jan 12, 2015: George Krucik, MD, MBA
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