Vaccinations
NHS Choices

How the pneumococcal vaccine works

There are two types of pneumococcal vaccine available. The type of pneumococcal vaccine you are given depends on your age and health.

The pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) is used to vaccinate children under the age of two.

The pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPV) is used to vaccinate adults who are 65 and over, and people at high risk due to chronic health conditions.

Both vaccines are given by injection, usually into the upper arm, although for infants under the age of one, the injection may be given into the thigh.

Both types of pneumococcal vaccine encourage your body to produce antibodies against pneumococcal bacteria. Antibodies are proteins produced by the body to neutralise or destroy disease-carrying organisms and toxins. They protect you from becoming ill if you are infected with the bacteria.

The aim of the pneumococcal vaccine is to protect against most pneumococcal bacteria, although there is no guarantee that you will be immune to all types of the bacteria.

The pneumococcal vaccine for babies

The pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) is recommended for children under the age of two and is offered as part of the childhood vaccination programme.

A newer version of the PCV approved in 2010 protects against 13 strains of pneumococcal bacteria. It's brand name is Prevenar 13.

The pneumo jab for over-65s and people with underlying health problems

The pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPV) is recommended for adults over the age of 65, as well as children and adults between the ages of two and 64 who are considered to be high risk because of a long-term health condition.

PPV protects against 23 types of pneumococcal bacteria. According to the Health Protection Agency (HPA), this covers virtually all (96%) of the types of pneumococcal bacteria that can cause serious diseases in the UK.

Children at risk of pneumococcal infections can have the PPV vaccine from the age of two onwards. It's thought not to work in children under the age of two.

Now read about who should have the pneumococcal vaccine.


Last Updated: 01/04/2017 09:00:00