Prevenar 13 (Pneumococcal vaccine)

How does it work?

Prevenar 13 is a pneumococcal vaccine that contains extracts from thirteen of the most common types of Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria. These bacteria are responsible for causing invasive diseases such as pneumonia, blood poisoning and meningitis. The vaccine works by provoking the body's immune response to the bacteria, without causing the diseases.

When the body is exposed to foreign organisms, such as bacteria and viruses, the immune system produces antibodies against them. Antibodies help the body recognise and kill the foreign organisms. They then remain in the body to help protect the body against future infections with the same organism. This is known as active immunity.

The immune system produces different antibodies for each foreign organism it encounters. This establishes a pool of antibodies that helps protect the body from various different diseases.

Vaccines contain extracts or inactivated forms of bacteria or viruses that cause disease. These altered forms of the organisms stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies against them, but don't actually cause disease themselves. The antibodies produced remain in the body so that if the organism is encountered naturally, the immune system can recognise it and attack it, thus preventing it from causing disease.

Each bacteria or virus stimulates the immune system to produce a specific type of antibody. This means that different vaccines are needed to prevent different diseases.

Prevenar 13 contains inactivated extracts from thirteen of the most common types of Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria. It stimulates the immune system to produce antibodies against these bacteria and is given to prevent the diseases that they can cause.

What is it used for?

  • Prevenar 13 is licensed for preventing invasive pneumococcal disease (eg pneumonia, acute middle ear infections (otitis media), meningitis or blood poisoning) caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria in children aged six weeks to 17 years and in adults aged 50 years and older.

Prevenar 13 is part of the childhood immunisation schedule. This vaccine will usually be given as three doses, at two, four and 12 to 13 months of age.

This vaccine is also recommended for children aged over 12 months and under five years of age who didn't have the vaccine when they were a baby, or who weren't given the full course of three doses. In this case, only one dose is given.

Children aged over five years and adults who need a pneumococcal vaccine will usually be given a single dose of a different pneumococcal vaccine called Pneumovax II.

Children under five years who are at increased risk of complications if they get a pneumococcal infection should also be given a single dose of Pneumovax II after their second birthday, at least two months after their third dose of Prevenar 13. Children at higher risk include those with chronic heart, lung, liver and kidney diseases, diabetes, a weakened immune system due to disease (including HIV) or treatment (eg chemotherapy, radiotherapy, high dose corticosteroids), a malfunctioning spleen, eg sickle cell disease, and children who have had their spleens removed, or who have had cochlear implants.

How is it given?

  • Prevenar 13 is given as an injection into the muscle of the thigh for babies under one year and the upper arm for older children and adults.


  • This vaccine only provides protection against disease caused by the thirteen strains of Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria included in the vaccine. It will not protect against other groups of pneumococcal bacteria, or other organisms that cause meningitis, septicaemia (blood poisoning) or otitis media.
  • Individuals whose immune system is underactive, for example due to a genetic defect, HIV infection, or treatment with medicines that suppress the immune system, such as chemotherapy, high doses of corticosteroids, or immunosuppressants (eg to prevent transplant rejection), may not produce an adequate immune response to this vaccine. See end of factsheet for more information and for further advice talk to your doctor.

Not to be used in

  • People with a fever or sudden severe illness (in this case the vaccine should be postponed until after recovery).
  • People with known sensitivity or allergy to diphtheria toxoid.

This vaccine should not be used if you or your child are allergic to any of its ingredients. Please inform your doctor or pharmacist if you or your child have previously experienced such an allergy.

If you feel your child has experienced an allergic reaction after having this vaccine, inform your doctor or pharmacist immediately.

Use with caution in

  • Children with a personal or family history of febrile convulsions.

These children can still be given this vaccine, but it may be recommended that you give them a dose of paracetamol (eg Calpol) or ibuprofen (eg Nurofen for children) to prevent the child getting a fever after having this vaccine. It is important to follow the instructions given by the doctor or nurse and give the recommended dose only.

  • People at risk of bleeding following an injection into the muscle, eg children with haemophilia or low levels of platelets in their blood (thrombocytopenia). The injection should be given under the skin rather than into a muscle in these people.

Side effects

Vaccines and their possible side effects can affect individual people in different ways. The following are some of the side effects that are known to be associated with this vaccine when it is given to children aged six weeks to five years. Just because a side effect is stated here does not mean that all children having this vaccine will experience that or any side effect.

This vaccine contains no live bacteria and cannot cause pneumococcal disease.

Very common (affect more than 1 in 10 children)

  • Pain, tenderness, swelling, redness or hardening of the skin at the injection site.
  • Fever (high temperature). If your child seems distressed they can be given a dose of paracetamol and, if necessary, a second dose four to six hours later. Ibuprofen can be used if paracetamol is unsuitable, but if a second dose of ibuprofen is required, it should be given six hours after the first dose. Ask your nurse, pharmacist or doctor for advice on the dose needed for your child. Seek medical advice if the fever persists.
  • Irritability.
  • Drowsiness.
  • Restless sleep.
  • Decreased appetite.

Common (affect between 1 in 10 and 1 in 100 children)

  • Tenderness at the injection site that interferes with movement.
  • Fever higher than 39°C.

Uncommon (affect between 1 in 100 and 1 in 1000 children)

  • Vomiting.
  • Diarrhoea.
  • Crying.

Rare (affect between 1 in 1000 and 1 in 10,000 children)

  • Rash or hives.
  • Seizures.
  • Floppiness.
  • Allergic reaction such as itching, hives or dermatitis at injection site.
  • Allergic reactions such as anaphylaxis, narrowing of the airways (bronchospasm) or swelling of the lips, throat and tongue (angioedema).

The side effects listed above may not include all of the side effects reported by the vaccine's manufacturer. Side effects in older children and in adults over 50 years of age are similar to those in young children, but may occur at different frequencies.

For more information about any other possible risks associated with this vaccine, please read the information provided with the vaccine or consult your doctor or pharmacist.

How can this vaccine affect other medicines?

This vaccine is not known to affect other medicines.

However, it is recommended that this vaccine is given at least two weeks before starting treatment with therapies that suppress the immune system, eg chemotherapy, radiotherapy, long-term high-dose corticosteroids, or immunosuppressants. This is because once the immune system is suppressed by these treatments, sufficient numbers of antibodies may not be produced in response to the vaccine.

The vaccine should particularly be avoided during radiotherapy or chemotherapy treatment. The immune response may also still be reduced after chemotherapy or radiotherapy has finished and the vaccine should therefore not be given within three months of finishing such treatment (possibly longer if the treatment was intensive or prolonged).

Other childhood vaccinations can be given at the same time as this vaccine, but different vaccines should be given into different injection sites and preferably different limbs.

Children who have have been immunised with this vaccine can also be given the 23-valent pneumococcal vaccine (Pneumovax II) after their second birthday, if recommended by the child's doctor. The interval between receiving a dose of this vaccine and a dose of Pneumovax II should not be less than eight weeks.

Adults aged 50 years and over can be given this vaccine at the same time as the seasonal flu vaccine.

Other pneumococcal vaccines

Pneumovax IISynflorix