Pneumococcal vaccine

Sounds like 'new-mo-cock-al' vaccine

The pneumococcal vaccine is used to prevent infections that are caused by the bug (bacteria) called Pneumococcus. Find out about the vaccine and possible side effects.

Type of medicine Also called
  • Vaccine
  • Pneumovax 23® (also called 23PPV)
  • Prevenar® (also called Prevenar 13 or PVC13)
  • Synflorix® (also called PVC10)

What is the pneumococcal vaccine?

Pneumococcal vaccine is used to prevent infections that are caused by the bug (bacteria) called Pneumococcus. These infections can range from sinusitis and ear infections to life-threatening infections like pneumonia or meningitis. Find out more about pneumococcal disease.

Being vaccinated causes your body to produce antibodies against the Pneumococcus bacteria. This means your body can respond faster and more effectively to prevent an infection. It does this because by first coming across a non-infectious version of the bacteria in the vaccine, it learns to recognise it. When it comes across it again, your body can react much faster and in a more effective way.

How effective is the pneumococcal vaccine?

Vaccination is the best method for preventing infection and reducing the seriousness of illness if you become infected. The rate of pneumococcal disease in children under the age of 2 years has halved since vaccination was introduced. 

What pneumococcal vaccines are available?

In Aotearoa New Zealand there are 3 different brands of pneumococcal vaccine – Pneumovax 23®, Prevenar® and Synflorix®. They are slightly different to each other as they protect against different types of Pneumoccocus bacteria.

Your age and risk factors decide which brand you need to have and when to have the doses. Often the doses are given a few months apart. You need to have completed all of your doses to be fully vaccinated.

If you miss starting a course, that’s okay. Speak to your doctor or nurse for advice on when to have the vaccines.

Dose

  • All infants who are not high risk of pneumococcal disease should receive the pneumococcal vaccine (Synflorix) as part of the New Zealand Immunisation Schedule at 6 weeks, 5 months and 12 months of age. 
  • Infants who are high-risk are recommended to receive their doses of Prevenar 13® at 6 weeks, 3 months, 5 months and 12 months of age.
  • Some older children and adults with weakened immune systems who are at risk of pneumococcal infection may be eligible for vaccination with Pneumovax 23. Check with your doctor or nurse about your eligibility. 

How is the pneumococcal vaccine given?

  • The pneumococcal vaccine is usually given by injection into a muscle, such as the muscle on your mid-thigh.
  • If you have a condition that makes you bleed more easily than normal, it may be given as an injection underneath your skin.
  • It's safe to get the pneumococcal vaccine at the same time as the seasonal flu vaccine, but at a different injection site.

What are the side effects of pneumococcal vaccine?

Like all medicines, the pneumococcal vaccine can cause side effects, although not everyone gets them. 

Side effects What should I do?
  • Pain, swelling or redness around the injection site
  • This is quite common after having the vaccination.
  • It usually starts a few hours after getting the injection and settles within a few days.
  • Place a cold, wet cloth or ice pack where the injection was given. Leave it on for a short time.
  • Do not rub the injection site
  • Tell your doctor if these side effects bother you.
  • Read more about:
    After your child is immunised (babies and children)
    After your immunisation (teenagers and adults).
  • Mild fever
Babies and children
  • If your child is hot, it can help to undress them down to a single layer, eg, a singlet and nappies or pants.
  • Make sure the room is not too hot or too cold.
  • The routine use of paracetamol is not recommended following vaccinations, but may be used if your child is miserable or distressed.
  • Read more about After your child is immunised 
Teenagers and adults
  • Rest and drink plenty of fluids.
  • The routine use of paracetamol is not recommended following vaccinations, but may be used for relief of severe discomfort.
  • Read more about After your immunisation 
  • Feeling unwell, tired or weak
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscle ache
  • Headache
  • These are quite common for the first 1 or 2 days after receiving the injection.
  • They usually settle within a few days.
  • The routine use of paracetamol is not recommended following vaccinations, but may be used for relief of severe discomfort.
  • Tell your doctor if these side effects bother you.
  • Read more about After your immunisation.
  • Signs of an allergic reaction, such as skin rash, itching, blisters, peeling skin, swelling of your face, lips or mouth or problems breathing
  • Allergic reactions to pneumococcal vaccine are rare.
  • If you develop these signs within a few days of the vaccination, tell your doctor immediately or phone Healthline 0800 611 116.
For more information on side effects, see the consumer information leaflets below.

Did you know that you can report a medicine side effect to the Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring (CARM)? Report a side effect to a product.

Where can I get vaccinated?

The best place to go for vaccinations is your family medical clinic. They have your medical records and can check to see if you’ve already had a particular vaccination. Either your doctor or a nurse can give the vaccination.

If you don’t have a family doctor, you can go to one of the after-hour medical clinics. Phone them first to make sure they can help you with the vaccination you need.

You can find a clinic near you on the Healthpoint website. Put in your address and region, and under Select a service, click on GPs/Accident & Urgent Medical Care.

Vaccines on the National Immunisation Schedule are free. Other vaccines are funded only for people at particular risk of disease. You can choose to pay for vaccines that you are not eligible to receive for free.

Learn more

The following links have more information on the pneumococcal vaccine. Be aware that websites from other countries may contain information that differs from Aotearoa New Zealand recommendations.

Synflorix Immunisation Advisory Centre, NZ 
Pneumovax 23Immunisation Advisory Centre, NZ 
Prevenar 13 Immunisation Advisory Centre, NZ 
Pneumovax 23 Medsafe Consumer Information Sheets, NZ
Prevenar Medsafe Consumer Information Sheets, NZ
Synflorix Medsafe Consumer Information Sheets, NZ

More ways to help protect your family Immunisation Advisory Centre, NZ 
Quick answers to frequent pneumococcal vaccine questions Immunisation Advisory Centre, NZ 

References

  1. Pneumococcal disease Immunisation Handbook, NZ, 2020, 
  2. Pneumococcal vaccine NZ Formulary, NZ

Additional resources for healthcare professionals

Pneumococcal vaccine NZ Formulary, NZ
Pneumovax 23 Medsafe Product Information, NZ
Prevenar Medsafe Product Information, NZ
Synflorix Medsafe Product Information, NZ
New Zealand National Immunisation Schedule IMAC, NZ
Immunisation Handbook 2020 Ministry of Health, NZ
Changes to the pneumococcal vaccine for children BPAC, NZ, 2014
Pneumococcal vaccine for adults – pneumovax23 BPAC, NZ, 2011

Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist. Reviewed By: Maya Patel, Pharmacist Last reviewed: 07 Feb 2022