Health Care Professionals


Immunization: Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine

This fact sheet provides basic information only. It must not take the place of medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always talk to a health care professional about any health concerns you have, and before you make any changes to your diet, lifestyle or treatment.

How are children protected against invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD)?
Vaccines are the best way to protect children against some very serious infections. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) strongly recommends routine immunization.

The pneumococcal conjugate vaccine protects children against invasive pneumococcal infections such as pneumonia, bacteraemia (infection of the blood) and meningitis (infection of the brain).

What is invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD)?
IPD is a bacterial infection caused by a type of bacteria called streptococcus pneumoniae (or pneumococcus). This type of bacteria can cause any of the following:

Pneumococcal infection is also a frequent cause of ear infections (otitis media).

Pneumonia, bacteraemia and meningitis can sometimes cause death or long lasting complications such as deafness, especially in people with a high-risk medical condition.

Sometimes antibiotics do not work against the pneumococcal infection (this is called antibiotic resistance). Antibiotic resistance occurs when drugs used to treat the infection are no longer effective in killing or stopping the growth of particular microorganisms, such as pneumococcal bacteria. When there is antibiotic resistance, it is more difficult to treat the infection.

How do you get invasive pneumococcal disease?
The bacteria that cause IPD can live at the back of the nose and throat without causing symptoms. People of all ages can be healthy carriers of pneumococci bacteria, but young children are the most frequent carriers of the bacteria.

The bacteria can spread through droplets in the air from coughing or sneezing. Bacteria can also spread from person to person through direct contact with the respiratory secretions of an infected person, for example, through kissing. Bacteria can also spread through the saliva of an infected person when common items are shared, e.g., beverages (bottles, straws), eating utensils or chewing on toys.

Why is the pneumococcal vaccine important?
Streptococcus pneumoniae is the most common cause of bacterial infection in children under 2 years of age. Pneumococcal (conjugate) vaccine can prevent pneumonia, bacteraemia and meningitis caused by streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria in these young children.

Who should get the vaccine?
Starting at age 2 months, infants should receive the vaccine as part of their routine immunization. The vaccine is publicly funded for all children under the age of 5.

This vaccine is particularly important for children who have medical conditions that put them at increased risk for invasive pneumococcal disease (‘high-risk children’).

High-risk children are those who have any of the following high-risk medical conditions :

About one in four children who become ill from IPD have an underlying medical condition.

When should the pneumococcal vaccine be given?
The recommended pneumococcal conjugate vaccine series usually begins at the age of 2 months, but can be given as early as 6 weeks of age.

Healthy children starting their series at 2 months of age should receive three doses pneumococcal conjugate vaccine at 2, 4 and 12 months of age. High risk children with one or more of the above conditions should receive four doses at 2, 4, 6 and 15 months of age. The number of doses required will depend on the child’s age at the time of the first dose of pneumococcal vaccine and whether the child is at high risk for invasive pneumococcal disease.

For more detailed information please contact your doctor or your local public health unit.

Are there side effects from the vaccine?
Most reactions tend to be mild and include soreness, redness, itching and/or rash where the needle was given. Decreased appetite is a common reaction. Other common side effects may occur such as irritability, drowsiness, change in sleep pattern, restlessness, diarrhea, vomiting and rash.  Serious reactions are rare.

Please report any side effects or serious vaccine reactions to your doctor/nurse practitioner or local public health unit.

You should always discuss the benefits and risks of any vaccine with your doctor, nurse practitioner or local public health unit.

Who should not get the vaccine?
Children should not receive the vaccine if they have allergies to any component of the vaccine including diphtheria toxoid or if they had an anaphylactic reaction to a prior dose of the vaccine.

When should I call my doctor?
Call your doctor/nurse practitioner or go to the nearest hospital emergency department if your child has any of the following symptoms within three days of getting the needle:

Who should I talk to if I have any questions?
For more information please contact your doctor/nurse practitioner or your local public health unit.

Your record of protection
After your child receives any immunization, make sure his/her personal immunization record (sometimes called the ‘yellow card’) is updated. Keep it in a safe place. You may be asked to show this record of immunization when your child registers for school or daycare.

For More Information

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