Find out more about the whooping cough vaccine and other vaccines offered to pregnant women and babies

Pneumococcal vaccine for babies

Overview

The pneumococcal vaccine helps protect against illnesses and conditions caused by pneumococcal bacteria.

What illnesses and conditions are caused by pneumococcal bacteria?

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

Pneumococcal infection can cause:

  • bronchitis
  • ear and sinus infections
  • a 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

What is pneumococcal disease and why do we need a vaccine?

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

How common are pneumococcal bacteria?

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.

Why should a baby be vaccinated?

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 protect against meningitis caused by other bacteria or viruses.

Who is eligible for the vaccine?

Some children are at an increased risk from pneumococcal infection. All at risk children will be offered the vaccine according to the routine childhood immunisation programme. If you aren’t sure about your child’s health or need further advice, speak to your health professional.

When will a baby be immunised?

If a baby is eligible, they will be offered the pneumococcal vaccine when they’re 12 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.

In addition to this some children and adults aged from 2 to 64 years old, who are at a higher risk of developing a pneumococcal infection than the general population, will be offered additional pneumococcal vaccinations.

Your local NHS immunisation team will contact you to let you know about their arrangements for the baby’s routine childhood immunisations.

Find out how to contact your local NHS immunisation team regarding your baby’s vaccination appointment

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

The vaccine

The pneumococcal vaccine is the best way to protect babies against infections caused by pneumococcal bacteria.

What vaccine is used?

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

How effective is the vaccine?

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

How many doses of the vaccine does my baby need?

A baby will be offered the pneumococcal vaccine when they’re 12 weeks old. A second dose is needed to extend this protection when the baby reaches 12 or 13 months of age.

How do we know the vaccine is 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.

After the vaccine

After having the vaccine there may be 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.

Vaccines protect babies against the risk of very serious infections and should not be delayed.

Side effects

Fever can be expected after any vaccination. Fevers are usually mild, so you only need to give a dose of infant paracetamol if the child isn’t comfortable or is unwell. Read the instructions on the bottle very carefully.

Ibuprofen can also be used to treat a fever and other post-vaccination reactions. Read the instructions on the product packing very carefully. Giving ibuprofen at the time of vaccination to prevent a fever is not effective.

Remember, never give medicines that contain aspirin to children under 16.

Information about treating a fever in children.

In infants who do develop a fever after vaccination, the fever tends to peak around 6 hours after vaccination and is nearly always gone completely within 2 days.

Call 999 for an ambulance and seek help immediately if

  • the baby has a fit

If you think the baby is serious ill, trust your instincts and seek urgent medical advice.

Phone your GP immediately if:

  • the child has a temperature of 39°C or above
  • the child still has a fever 48 hours after vaccination
  • if you are concerned about the child’s health

If your GP is closed, you can contact NHS24 on 111.

The diseases vaccines protect against are very serious and therefore vaccination should not be delayed because of concerns about post-vaccination fever.

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

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

From birth, a baby’s 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 0800 731 6789 (available Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm)

Vaccine Safety Net Member

Public Health Scotland is a proud member of the Vaccine Safety Net and partners with NHS inform to provide reliable information on vaccine safety.

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

Information in other languages and formats

Information leaflets from Public Health Scotland are available in

  • British Sign Language (BSL), Audio, Easy Read, and Large Print formats
  • English and other languages

You can request another format or language (for example Braille) by emailing phs.otherformats@phs.scot.

Last updated:
17 July 2024

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