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5 min read

Pneumococcal Vaccines: Types, and Side Effects

Pneumococcal disease caused by streptococcus pneumoniae, though perhaps not a household name, poses a significant health risk that leads to thousands of serious infections annually in the United States.

What Is The Pneumococcal Vaccine Given For?

The National Foundation for Infectious Diseases reports that Pneumococcal pneumonia sadly leads to hospitalization for approximately 150,000 individuals in the U.S. annually. It's heart-wrenching to know that it claims the lives of about 5-7 percent of those infected, or 1 in 20.

While pneumococcal disease may be more prevalent in children, adults are not immune to its potential consequences, which include serious infections and even life-threatening symptoms.

Understanding the basics of pneumococcal vaccination is key to preventing individuals from pneumococcal disease. You're in the right place if you've ever had doubts or questions about pneumococcal vaccines. In this blog, we'll explore the various types of pneumococcal vaccines and shed light on their potential side effects, providing the key information required to make informed decisions about your health and those nearest you.

Pneumococcal disease is caused by the bacterium strain Streptococcus pneumoniae. This invasive pneumococcal disease primarily attacks the respiratory and central nervous systems, leading to potentially serious health issues.

It can affect various body parts, leading to pneumonia, meningitis, sepsis, and ear infections. These bacterial infections can be severe, causing symptoms like high fever, difficulty breathing, and severe headaches, and in some cases, they can be life-threatening, particularly in more vulnerable demographics such as infants and the elderly.

Like all other vaccines, the pneumococcal vaccination is generally regarded as highly safe by leading medical institutions. Extensive research and rigorous testing support their safety profiles, reassuring individuals about the vaccine efficacy and all the benefits of immunization in preventing serious pneumococcal infection.

What Are The Different Types Of Pneumococcal Vaccines?

Three distinct pneumococcal vaccine types are available: PCV13, PCV15, and PCV20. These vaccines are designed to protect against a range of pneumococcal infections.

The choice of pneumococcal vaccine depends on factors such as an individual's age and health condition. Different vaccines are recommended for different age groups and risk profiles, ensuring that each person receives the most appropriate and effective protection against pneumococcal diseases. 


PCV13, or Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine 13, is administered to children at specific ages to protect them against pneumococcal infections.

Typically, infants and young children receive four doses of PCV13 at 2, 4, 6, and 12-15 months old. For those who missed these doses, children up to 59 months old can still receive PCV13. 

Additionally, adolescents and children aged 6-18 with certain medical conditions are advised to receive a single dose of PCV13 if needed. The pneumococcal vaccine effectively protects against pneumococcal diseases and is essential to childhood immunization.

PCV15 or PCV20

PCV15 vs PCV20: These pneumococcal vaccines vary in the number of strains they protect against. PCV15 covers 15 strains, whereas PCV20 protects against 20 strains.

Doctors recommend PCV15 for routine immunization for healthy adults aged 65 years of age and older as it targets common strains. In contrast, PCV20 is preferred for adults in the same age group with underlying health conditions, offering broader coverage against additional strains. 

The choice between PCV15 and PCV20 depends on an individual's health status, ensuring a more individualized approach to pneumococcal disease prevention.

Why Are Pneumococcal Vaccines Important?

In today's society, the pneumococcal vaccine is essential in defending public health. The invasive pneumococcal disease is highly contagious, making it easily transmissible among individuals. Pneumococcal disease can lead to serious health problems, including severe lung infections, infections of the brain lining. Other risk factors are even bloodstream and ear infections. Infants, adults over 65 years of age, and individuals with specific medical conditions face heightened risks. Fortunately, pneumococcal vaccination is the most effective and optimistic approach to preventing pneumococcal disease, promoting individual and community well-being by reducing the potential for its potentially devastating effects.

Preventing the spread of invasive pneumococcal disease is a collective responsibility because it improves individual health and protects vulnerable populations at higher risk of serious infections. By getting the pneumococcal vaccine and practicing good hygiene, we contribute to herd immunity, reducing the numbers suffering from pneumococcal disease and preventing its transmission to those most susceptible, like young children.

Who Needs To Get Pneumococcal Vaccines?

The pneumococcal vaccine recommended age spans various life stages, emphasizing its significance for young children to the elderly. Infants and young children receive scheduled doses as part of routine vaccination. Adults aged 65 years of age and older are encouraged to stay protected against pneumococcal disease. Individuals with chronic health conditions like heart disease or asthma and those with compromised immune systems should also seek vaccination.Even smokers are advised to get the vaccine, underlining its importance in preventing pneumococcal infections across various individuals and health situations.

Who Should Not Get Pneumococcal Vaccines?

Doctors recommend against administering pneumococcal vaccines in specific situations. It should be avoided if an individual has previously experienced a life-threatening allergic reaction to the vaccine or its components. It is important to inform the healthcare provider about serious allergies before vaccination. Additionally, disclosing pregnancy to the doctor is essential, as the timing of vaccination may need adjustment. If someone is currently unwell, doctors recommend postponing the pneumococcal vaccination until their health improves, ensuring the safety and effectiveness of the immunization process.

What Are Common Side Effects Of Pneumococcal Vaccines?

As per the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), common side effects of pneumococcal vaccines are generally mild and transient symptoms:

  1. Feeling Drowsy: Some individuals may experience drowsiness or fatigue after receiving the pneumococcal vaccine. This is typically a mild and temporary side effect.
  2. Loss of Appetite: A temporary loss of appetite can occur as a common side effect of the vaccine. This usually resolves on its own within a short period.
  3. Sore or Swollen Arm from the Shot: Pain, redness, or swelling at the injection site on the arm is a common side effect. It's usually localized and temporary.
  4. Fever: Mild fever chills can occur as the immune system responds to the vaccine. Generally, the fever is short-lived and not a cause for concern.
  5. Headache: Some individuals may experience a mild headache after vaccination. This symptom can be managed with over-the-counter pain relievers if needed.
  6. Severe Allergic Reactions (Anaphylactic): Although extremely rare, severe reactions (anaphylaxis) can occur after receiving the pneumococcal vaccine. These reactions require immediate medical attention but are exceptionally uncommon.

 Most pneumococcal vaccine recipients only encounter these minor and short-lived side effects.

What Are Some Severe Reactions Of Pneumococcal Vaccines?

Regrettably, while the pneumococcal vaccine is generally safe, there are rare instances where more serious consequences may occur. These include:

  1. Anaphylaxis or Other Reactions: In extremely rare cases, individuals may experience severe reactions to the vaccine, which require immediate medical attention.
  2. Fainting After Injection (Syncope): Some individuals, particularly adolescents, may faint after receiving the vaccine. This can lead to injury and requires monitoring after vaccination.
  3. Shoulder Injury Related to Vaccine Administration (SIRVA): Incorrect vaccine administration can cause shoulder injuries, resulting in severe pain and limited arm movement.
  4. Febrile Seizures: While a rare side effect, febrile seizures may occur, especially in young children, although the risk is minimal.
  5. Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS): Though exceptionally rare, GBS, a neurological disorder, has been associated with vaccines, including pneumococcal.
  6. Transverse Myelitis (TM): Another rare neurological disorder, TM, has been linked to vaccines, albeit very infrequently.
  7. Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy (CIDP): CIDP is an immune-mediated nerve disorder reported in rare cases post-vaccination.
  8. Complex Regional Pain Syndrome: Some individuals have claimed to have encountered this persistent pain condition after receiving the vaccination.
  9. Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (SIRS): While uncommon, SIRS may occur due to vaccination, with symptoms resembling a severe inflammatory response.

Notably, these severe side effects are exceptionally rare, and the benefits of vaccination in preventing pneumococcal disease far outweigh the risks.


Is There Compensation Available For Pneumococcal Vaccine Injuries?

Compensation for a pneumococcal vaccination injury is typically sought through the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP). This program extends coverage to most routinely administered vaccines in the U.S., provided the CDC recommends them for routine use in children or pregnant women and are subject to federal excise tax. 

Notably, the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV, PPV) is not covered by VICP. 

The Vaccine Injury Table is useful as it lists vaccines and associated injuries or conditions eligible for compensation. The Vaccine Injury Table is extremely helpful for individuals navigating the legal process after suffering from vaccine-related injuries.


Have You Been Injured From A Pneumococcal Vaccine?

At My Vaccine Lawyers, our team is here to assist you. If you've experienced vaccine-related injuries from a pneumococcal vaccine, we can help you file a claim and provide expert guidance throughout the entire process with the VICP. Your well-being is our priority.

Meet the Author

Max Muller - Founding Partner

Mr. Muller currently devotes the majority of his law practice to aggressively fighting for the victims of unsafe drug and medical device injuries, as well as vaccine injuries and vaccine reactions involving the flu shot, TDaP/DTaP vaccine, and more. He has handled hundreds of SIRVA injury cases (shoulder injury related to vaccine administration), especially those involving bursitis, tendonitis, frozen shoulder, and rotator cuff tears. Mr. Muller also handles cases where vaccines caused serious nerve injuries such as Guillain-Barre Syndrome. Mr. Muller has recovered millions of dollars in compensation for his clients in the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.

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