Vaccinate Your Baby

Pneumococcal Disease

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The Disease

Pneumococcal disease is an infection caused by bacteria called pneumococcus. Pneumococcal disease ranges from mild to very dangerous. The most common form of pneumococcal disease is pneumococcal pneumonia. Symptoms include fever, chills, cough, rapid breathing or difficulty breathing, and chest pain. Another form of the disease is pneumococcal meningitis, which is a serious infection of the covering of the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms of meningitis include stiff neck, fever, headaches, pain from bright light, and confusion. In babies, meningitis can cause different symptoms including poor eating and drinking, low alertness, and vomiting.

Pneumococcus bacteria can also cause serious blood infections, known as bacteremia and sepsis. Symptoms of these blood infections are fever, chills, and low alertness.

In addition, pneumococcal disease causes up to half of middle ear infections. Symptoms may include ear pain, a red and swollen ear drum, and sometimes, fever and sleepiness.

Pneumococcal disease spreads when a person who is infected with the bacteria coughs or sneezes.

Serious pneumococcal infections can be life threatening and are most common in infants, young children and the elderly.

The Statistics

Each year in the U.S., pneumococcal disease causes thousands of cases of pneumonia and ear infections. In addition, about 4,000 cases of serious pneumococcal disease (meningitis and bacteremia) occur in children under 5 years old in the U.S. About 1 out of 10 children who get pneumococcal meningitis dies.

The Vaccine

The pneumococcal vaccine protects children from pneumococcal disease. The pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13) protects against the 13 types of pneumococcus bacteria that cause most of the severe illness in children. The vaccine can also help prevent some ear infections. For the best protection, four doses of the PCV13 vaccine are recommended. The first dose is given at 2 months of age, the second dose at 4 months, the third dose at 6 months, and the fourth dose between 12-15 months.

Pneumococcal Polysaccharide Vaccine (PPSV23) is also given to people 2 years of age and older who are at high risk for pneumococcal disease.

Both PPSV23 and pneumococcal PCV13 are used to protect adults from pneumococcal disease. Learn more about pneumococcal vaccination recommendations for adults.

Additional Resources

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