Pneumococcal vaccine

The pneumococcal vaccine (or 'pneumo jab' or pneumonia vaccine as it's also known) protects against pneumococcal infections.

Pneumococcal infections are caused by the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae and can lead to pneumonia, septicaemia (a kind of blood poisoning) and meningitis.

Read more about why the pneumococcal vaccination is needed.

Who should have the pneumococcal vaccine?

A pneumococcal infection can affect anyone. However, some people need the pneumococcal vaccination because they are at higher risk of complications. These include:

  • all children under the age of two
  • adults aged 65 or over
  • children and adults with certain long-term health conditions, such as a serious heart or kidney condition

Read more about who should have the pneumo jab.

How often is the pneumococcal vaccine given?

Babies receive the pneumococcal vaccine as three separate injections, at 2 months, 4 months and 12-13 months.

People over-65 only need a single pneumococcal vaccination which will protect for life. It is not given annually like the flu jab.

People with a long term health condition may need just a single one-off pneumococcal vaccination or five-yearly vaccination depending on their underlying health problem.

Find out more about how often to have the pneumococcal vaccine.

Two types of pneumonia vaccine

There are two different types of pneumococcal vaccine:

More than 90 different strains of the pneumococcal bacterium have been identified, though only between eight and 10 of them cause the most serious infections.

The childhood vaccine (PCV) protects against 13 strains of the pneumococcal bacterium, while the adult vaccine (PPV) protects against 23 strains.

The pneumococcal vaccine is thought to be around 50 to 70% effective at preventing pneumococcal disease.

Read about how the pneumococcal vaccine works.

Who shouldn't have the pneumo jab?

Occasionally, you or your child may need to delay having the vaccination or avoid it completely:

Vaccine allergy

Tell your GP if you or your child has had a bad reaction to any vaccination in the past. If there's been a confirmed severe allergic reaction, called an anaphylactic reaction,  to the pneumococcal vaccine or any ingredient in the vaccine, it's best to avoid having it. However, if it was only a mild reaction, such as a rash, it is generally safe to have the vaccine.

Unwell with a fever

If you or your child are mildly unwell at the time of the vaccination, it's safe to have the vaccine. However, if you or your child are more seriously ill  for example with a high temperature  it's best to delay the vaccination until after recovery. 

Pregnancy and breastfeeding

It's thought to be safe to have the pneumococcal vaccine during pregnancy and while you're breastfeeding. But, as a precaution, if you are pregnant you may want to wait until you have had your baby (unless the benefits of having the vaccine outweigh the risks to your child).

Side effects of the pneumococcal vaccine

Like most vaccines, the childhood and adult versions of the pneumococcal vaccine can sometimes cause mild side effects, including:

  • a mild fever
  • redness at the site of the injection
  • hardness or swelling at the site of the injection

There are no serious side effects listed for either the childhood or adult versions of the vaccine apart from an extremely small risk of serious allergic reaction.

Read more about the side effects of the pneumococcal vaccination.

Page last reviewed: 26/03/2014

Next review due: 26/03/2016


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The 4 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Edale said on 07 December 2014

I was offered the vaccine at age 65 and decided to Google for some information. There were some distressing stories from people who had experienced debilitating reactions (particularly from the USA). As I'm quite healthy I decided not to take the risk.

The following summer my very healthy, sportsman son developed pneumonia for no discernable reason and that changed my mind. So last autumn I had the jab along with my flu vaccine. Apart from a sore arm that developed after around 12 hours and lasted a couple of days I was fine.

It was the best part of a year until my son was at his sporting best again, so I hate to think what pneumonia might do to me.

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karensa said on 01 November 2014

I had the flu jab done on thur 30th and the nurse said I needed to have the pneumonia jab which I regrettably agreed to have done.

Well!! I have been unwell since, feeling nauseous my arm is extremely sore, red, hard and swollen as if it is infected. Feeling very tired and lethargic.

I cant help but wonder if im feeling poorly like this how on earth must children feel?

I would not have had this vaccination had I known. I have both my parents very ill and simply dont have time for unnecessary illness.

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Hazeygee007 said on 20 October 2014

I went to GP for the flu jab that I have every year. This time he said I needed the pneumonia vaccine too as I had asthma. I let him do it and boy do I regret it. The top of my arm has swollen up to the size of a baseball it's very painful red and hard. I'm now on day three and there is just no let up it's still as bad. I now feel nauseous and have a terrible headache and painkillers just don't help. I'm laid in bed with an ice pack on it and feel utterly miserable.

Had I of known how bad this was I wouldn't of had it. I feel terrible so Sandra who left the comment above. I feel your pain x

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Sandra Laine said on 18 October 2014

I am aged 70 and had an injection against pneumonia on 16 th October. That evening the area was very sore. Had difficulty sleeping due to pain on slight movement and very tender to touch. Also feel nauseous and unwell. I went to the local Pharmacist today, Saturday. It is swollen, red and extremely painful. He suggested returning to surgery if it has not settled by Monday. Have taken pain relief but no effect. I have never known such reaction to any of the mant injections I have had. Wish I had just stuck with flu jab and did not have pneumococcal jab. Sandra Laine

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