Pneumonia is an infection that affects the lungs, causing the tiny air sacs to become filled with pus and fluid. It is a serious illness that can be fatal in some people.
Vaccines have been developed against pneumonia to help prevent people from contracting the infection. These have been rigorously tested and are safe and effective for most people.
However, like all medications and other vaccines, there are possible side effects. Most side effects of the pneumonia vaccine are mild and temporary. In rare cases, people can have a severe allergic reaction to the vaccine.
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Two types of pneumonia vaccines are currently available for people in the United States. These are:
Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13, PCV15, and PCV20)
Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23)
Pneumonia vaccines are recommended¹ for all children under the age of five and all adults over 65. Adults and children outside of these age ranges who have underlying medical conditions, or other risk factors that increase their chance of getting very sick with pneumonia, may also be recommended to get the pneumonia vaccine.
Vaccination is important because it can reduce the risk of people becoming infected with pneumonia, and it helps to prevent it from spreading between people.
For most people, the pneumonia vaccine is very safe and effective, so the benefits of vaccinating against pneumonia outweigh any risks of side effects.
However, there are some side effects to be aware of. The PCV13 and PPSV23 vaccines have a similar rate² of side effects experienced. But not everyone will encounter these.
Most side effects of the pneumonia vaccine are mild and only last between two to three days.
Some of the possible mild side effects of the PCV vaccines can include:
A reaction at the injection site. This can cause redness, swelling, pain, or tenderness, and arm movement may be limited. This cluster of side effects can happen with any vaccine. It is the most common side effect of the pneumonia vaccine, affecting 50% of people.
A fever above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (only experienced by less than 5%³ of people)
Loss of appetite
Irritability in adults and fussiness in children
Muscle aches and joint pain
Increased or decreased sleep in babies and children
Some people receive the pneumonia vaccine simultaneously with the flu vaccine. It is thought that this might increase the risk of young children having a febrile seizure (a type of seizure caused by a fever).
Some of the possible mild side effects of the PPSV vaccine include:
Redness, swelling, and pain where the vaccine was injected
Most of these side effects go away on their own. You can manage the symptoms with:
Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen
Regular intake of fluids
A cool compress applied to the skin
It is very rare to experience severe side effects after getting the pneumonia vaccine.
Some people are at a greater risk of experiencing anaphylaxis (an allergic reaction) after being vaccinated. This reaction usually comes on very quickly, within a few minutes to hours after getting the vaccine.
Signs of an allergic reaction include:
Fast heart rate
Shortness of breath
Developing a rash or hives on the skin
Swelling of the face and throat
Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency that requires rapid treatment.
If you think you might be allergic to the pneumonia vaccine, you should speak to your doctor to determine whether it will be safe for you to receive it. You might be allergic if:
You have had an allergic reaction to a pneumonia vaccine in the past
You have had an allergic reaction to a different vaccine in the past that contains an ingredient called diphtheria toxoid
You have another life-threatening allergy
After getting the pneumonia vaccine, you should wait 15 minutes to ensure you don’t have an allergic reaction.
The side effects of the pneumonia vaccine are usually mild, short-lasting, and typically resolve independently without medical intervention. An allergic reaction to the vaccine is rare but possible and requires prompt medical attention.
For most people, the possible side effects of the pneumonia vaccine are much milder than the symptoms and effects of developing pneumonia. Getting vaccinated can also prevent pneumonia from spreading between people.
If you have any concerns about the vaccine, you should speak to a trusted person, such as your doctor.
The side effects of the pneumonia vaccine usually last between two to three days.
An allergic reaction can cause shortness of breath, a fast heart rate, swelling, hives, or a rash. If you have any of these signs, you should seek immediate medical attention because an allergic reaction can be fatal.
A sore arm is a common side effect after receiving a vaccine. It is usually a sign that your immune system is reacting to the vaccine. See your doctor if your arm is still sore after a couple of weeks or if the redness and swelling in your arm get worse.
The pneumonia vaccine may cause you to feel sick for a short time. You might experience a fever, tiredness, headache, or muscle aches. These symptoms are usually harmless reactions to the vaccine — the pneumonia vaccine has not given you pneumonia.
Pain relief medications such as Tylenol can help manage the pneumonia vaccine's side effects. However, it’s always best to check with your doctor if you have concerns about taking medication.
Pneumococcal vaccination in adults | UpToDate