The pneumococcal vaccine is free for all children under 5. It protects against pneumococcal disease, which can cause a range of mild to life-threatening infections. The vaccine is given at 6 weeks, 5 months, and 12 months.
What it protects you from
Pneumococcal disease is caused by bacteria that live in your throat. These bacteria do not normally cause problems, but if they spread to other parts of the body they can make you very sick. Pneumococcal disease is easily spread by coughing, sneezing, and close contact.
Pneumococcal bacteria can cause minor infections, like:
- sinusitis – infection of the sinuses
- ear infections.
It can also lead to life-threatening conditions, like:
- meningitis – an infection of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord
- septicaemia – blood poisoning.
When it’s given
The pneumococcal vaccine is offered to babies for free when they are 6 weeks, 5 months and 12 months old. To be fully protected, your baby needs 3 separate doses of this vaccine.
The pneumococcal vaccine is free for all children under 5.
High-risk groups are eligible for free pneumococcal immunisation outside the schedule
Pneumococcal immunisations, including extra doses, are recommended for:
- children and adults with certain medical conditions, and
- premature babies born before 28 weeks.
Which vaccine is used
The vaccine we use in New Zealand is Prevenar 13®. This covers the 10 most common types of pneumococcal bacteria that cause disease in babies and young children.
It’s given as an injection, normally into a muscle in the arm or leg.
Side effects and reactions
Like most medicines, vaccines can sometimes cause reactions. These are usually mild, and not everyone will get them.
Mild reactions are normal and show that your child’s immune system is responding to the vaccine.
If your tamariki is going to have any reactions, they normally happen in the first few days after getting vaccinated. The vaccine itself is gone from your child's body within a few hours or days.
The most common reaction to an immunisation includes:
- a slight fever
- pain or swelling where the needle went in.
Other common reactions
Other common reactions of the pneumococcal vaccine include:
- loss of appetite
- sleeping more or less than usual.
Serious side effects are rare. If you have any questions or concerns, talk to your doctor or nurse, or call Healthline for free on 0800 611 116.
Call 111 if you’re worried your child is having a serious reaction.
Serious allergic reactions are extremely rare. Only about 1 in 1 million people will experience this.
Your vaccinator is well-trained and knows what to look for and can treat an allergic reaction quickly if it happens.
Serious allergic reactions normally happen within the first few minutes of vaccination. This is why your tamariki need to wait for up to 20 minutes after immunisation.