Overview

The pneumococcal vaccine provides some protection against meningitis caused by pneumococcal infection, and against other conditions such as severe ear infections and pneumonia caused by pneumococcal bacteria. This vaccine doesn't, however, protect against meningitis caused by other bacteria or viruses.

Some children are at an increased risk from pneumococcal infection. All at risk children should be offered the vaccine according to the routine childhood immunisation programme. Additionally, at risk children should be offered the vaccine when they're aged 2 years or over. If you aren't sure about your child's health or need further advice, speak to your GP, health visitor, practice nurse or pharmacist.

When will my child be vaccinated?

The pneumococcal vaccine's given to babies at 8 and 16 weeks of age with a booster dose given between 12 and 13 months. The vaccine can be given at any time and one injection provides years of protection.

The pneumococcal booster dose between 12 and 13 months is usually given at the same time as the Hib/MenC, MMR and MenB vaccines.

What's pneumococcal infection and how's it spread?

Pneumococcal infection's caused by pneumococcal bacteria. It can cause serious illness such as pneumonia. Pneumococcal infection's also one of the most common causes of meningitis (an infection of the lining of the brain).

Up to 60% of children carry pneumococcal bacteria in the back of their nose and throat. They constantly pass these bacteria around by coughing, sneezing and close contact.

What is pneumococcal disease and why do we need a vaccine? (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vaj3rmDNQEU)

In this short film, Dr Andrew Prendergast talks about pneumococcal disease and why it is important to vaccinate against the disease.

Why should I worry about pneumococcal infection?

Pneumococcal infection can cause:

  • bronchitis
  • ear and sinus infections
  • life-threatening infection of the blood (septicaemia)
  • meningitis
  • pneumonia (which can also be life-threatening).

Children under 2 years of age and children with certain health conditions have a higher chance of becoming unwell with pneumococcal infection.

More about meningitis and septicaemia

The vaccine

Your baby will be offered the pneumococcal vaccine when they're 8 and 16 weeks old, with a booster dose given between 12 and 13 months. The pneumococcal booster dose between 12 and 13 months is usually given at the same time as the Hib/MenC, MMR and MenB vaccines.

What vaccine's used?

The Prevenar 13 suspension for injection is routinely used in Scotland.

How effective is the pneumococcal vaccine?

Studies have shown that the pneumococcal vaccine's very effective in protecting your baby against one of the most common causes of meningitis, and against other conditions such as severe ear infections and pneumonia caused by pneumococcal bacteria.

A further dose is needed to extend this protection when your baby reaches 12 or 13 months of age.

How do we know the vaccine's safe?

All medicines (including vaccines) are tested for safety and effectiveness by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). The vaccine meets the high safety standards required for it to be used in the UK and other European countries. The vaccine has been given to millions of people worldwide.

Once they're in use, the safety of vaccines continues to be monitored by the MHRA.

Where and when to get it

Your baby will get the pneumococcal vaccination at your GP practice or health centre.

When's my baby going to be immunised?

Your baby will be offered the pneumococcal vaccine at 8 weeks, 16 weeks and one booster dose at 12 to 13 months. Your local NHS Health Board will contact you to let you know about their arrangements for your baby's routine childhood immunisations.

Most GP practices and health centres run special immunisation baby clinics. If you can’t get to the clinic, contact the practice or health centre to make another appointment.

Improving how vaccines are offered in Scotland

To improve how vaccinations are offered to you or your child, you may notice:

  • you're invited to a new location to receive your immunisations instead of your GP practice
  • the health professional giving your immunisations changes

You'll still receive clear information about the location, date and time of your appointment.

After the vaccine

After having the vaccine there may be side effects, but these are usually mild.

Side effects

Any reactions are generally minor and disappear within a few days. The vaccine doesn't contain live bacteria and can't cause an infection.

If you're worried about your child, trust your instincts. Speak to your GP or phone the 111 service.

Phone your GP immediately if, at any time, your child has a temperature of 39°C or above, or has a fit. If your GP practice is closed, phone the 111 service.

Won’t giving my baby the MMR and pneumococcal vaccines at the same time overload their immune system?

No. Your baby’s immune system can and does easily cope with the MMR and pneumococcal vaccines at the same time.

From birth, a babies’ immune systems protect them from the germs that surround them. Without this protection, babies wouldn't be able to cope with the tens of thousands of bacteria and viruses that cover our skin, nose, throat and intestines at all times. This protection carries on throughout life. In theory, a baby could respond effectively to around 10,000 vaccines at any time.

Where can I report suspected side effects?

You can report suspected side effects of vaccines and medicines through the Yellow Card Scheme.

This can be done by:

  • visiting the Yellow Card Scheme website
  • phoning the free Yellow Card hotline on 0808 100 3352 (available Monday to Friday, 10.00am to 2.00pm)

Further information

If you’re unsure about anything, or have any questions about the pneumococcal vaccine for babies, phone:

Immunisation leaflet

NHS Health Scotland have produced a leaflet explaining routine childhood immunisations in Scotland including the pneumococcal vaccine, why it's offered and when it's given.

This leaflet's also available in Easy Read English and other languages - including Polish, Simplified Chinese and Urdu.

A guide to childhood immunisations up to 5 years of age

Vaccine Safety Net Member

NHS inform is a proud member of the Vaccine Safety Net.

The Vaccine Safety Net is a global network of websites, evaluated by the World Health Organization, that provides reliable information on vaccine safety.

More about the Vaccine Safety Net