Pneumococcal vaccine for babies (Prevenar 13)

102 Users are discussing this topic

Pneumococcal vaccine is offered as part of the UK childhood immunisation schedule. It helps to protect against infections such as pneumonia and meningitis.

The vaccine will be injected into your child's leg or upper arm.

The most common side-effects are tenderness at the site of the injection, mild fever and lack of appetite. These should soon pass.

Type of medicinePneumococcal vaccine
Used forChildhood immunisation to protect against pneumococcal infection
Also calledPrevenar 13®
Available asIntramuscular injection

Pneumococcus is a bacterium which can cause pneumonia, meningitis and some other infections. Pneumococcal infections can affect anybody, but they are particularly common in young children. Some pneumococcal infections are more serious than others.

Immunisation against pneumococcus is part of the routine childhood immunisation programme in the UK. The routine schedule consists of three injections which are normally given at age 2 months, 4 months and between the ages of 12 and 13 months.

There are two types of vaccine available to protect against pneumococcal infection, but only one of these works well in young children. It is called pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV). The brand name of the vaccine used for childhood immunisation is Prevenar 13®. The second type of vaccine is called pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPV) and is used for adults and children over 2 years of age. There is another separate medicine leaflet called Pneumococcal vaccine - Pneumovax II which provides more information about this vaccine.

The vaccine stimulates your child to make antibodies against pneumococcal bacteria. These antibodies then help to protect your child from illness should they become infected with pneumococcal bacteria. The vaccine protects against many (but not all) types of pneumococcal bacteria.

Before your child is given PCV, make sure your doctor knows:

  • If your child has been unwell recently or has a high temperature.
  • If your child has previously had an allergic reaction to a vaccine or medicine.
  • If your child has a condition that makes them bleed more than is normal, such as haemophilia.
  • If you have been told your child has a weakened immune system.
  • Before your child is given the vaccine, ask to read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet. The manufacturer's leaflet will give you more information about Prevenar 13® and will tell you about any side-effects which your child may experience from having it. If you have any questions about the vaccine, ask your doctor or nurse for advice.
  • Your child will be given three doses of the vaccine. It is usual for the first to be given at their scheduled two-month visit, the second during their four-month visit, and the third dose when they are around 12-13 months old. PCV will be given on the same visit as your child's other routine vaccines, but it will be given as a separate injection.
  • The vaccine is usually given by injection into a muscle in their thigh or upper arm. However, if your child has a condition that makes them bleed more than normal, the vaccine can be given as an injection just underneath the skin.
  • If your child has a high temperature or is acutely unwell at the time of a scheduled immunisation, the doctor or nurse may recommend delaying giving the vaccine. A minor illness (such as a cough, cold or snuffles) will not interfere with the vaccine. If a delay is advised, you will be given an alternative appointment for the vaccination to be given.
  • Children who are particularly at risk from pneumococcal infections may need to have a dose of a different brand of pneumococcal vaccine when they are a little older. This will be in addition to the three routine doses of Prevenar 13®. This may be recommended, for example, for a child who has previously had pneumonia and been admitted to hospital.

Along with their useful effects, vaccines like most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects, although not every child experiences them. Pneumococcal immunisation often causes no problems, but the table below contains some of the side-effects which may occur. You will find a full list in the manufacturer's information leaflet supplied with the vaccine. Speak with a doctor or nurse if any of the following side-effects continue or become troublesome.

Common pneumococcal vaccine side-effectsWhat can I do if my child experiences this?
A mild fever; soreness, swelling, or redness around the site of the injectionThis should soon pass. If you are concerned, speak with your doctor or health visitor who may recommend giving a dose of paracetamol
Irritability, drowsiness or restless sleep, rashThis should soon pass
Loss of appetite, sickness, diarrhoeaMake sure your child has plenty to drink. If this continues, let your doctor know

You will normally be asked by the doctor or nurse to wait several minutes after the immunisation to make sure that your child does not react badly to the vaccine. Although allergic reactions are extremely rare, you should seek urgent medical advice if your child becomes breathless, or if any swelling or a rash develops within a few days of the immunisation.

If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to the vaccine, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.

Further reading & references

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.

Original Author:
Helen Allen
Current Version:
Peer Reviewer:
Prof Cathy Jackson
Document ID:
28760 (v1)
Last Checked:
Next Review:
The Information Standard - certified member

Did you find this health information useful?

Yes No

Thank you for your feedback!

Subcribe to the Patient newsletter for healthcare and news updates.

We would love to hear your feedback!

Patient Access app - find out more Patient facebook page - Like our page