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Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine

Contents of this page:


Pneumococci organism
Pneumococci organism
Pneumococcal pneumonia
Pneumococcal pneumonia
Pneumococcal vaccine
Pneumococcal vaccine

Alternative Names    Return to top

Vaccine - pneumovax; Immunization - pneumovax

Definition    Return to top

The pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine helps protect against severe infections due to the bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae. The bacteria frequently causes meningitis and pneumonia in children, older adults, and people with chronic illnesses.

Even though it's often called a "pneumonia vaccine," the vaccine has not been shown to prevent uncomplicated pneumonia.

Information    Return to top


The pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine is an inactivated-bacteria vaccine, which means it uses dead bacteria to teach the immune system to recognize and fight active bacteria.

This vaccine effectively prevents illnesses caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae in children over age 2 and adults at risk.


The vaccine is recommended for:

A single dose of the vaccine is given by injection. One dose works for most people. However, revaccination is recommended for people over age 65 who received their first dose before age 65 and more than 5 years ago. Other high-risk people, including those with weakened immune systems and spleen problems, may also need a second dose. You should speak with your doctor about specific reasons for vaccination and revaccination.

The pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine does not protect against pneumococcal diseases in children under age 2. There is a different vaccine, the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, which is routinely given to younger children to protect against disease due to Streptococcus pneumoniae.


Most people have no or only minor side effects from the pneumococcal vaccine. Pain and redness at the injection site can occur. As is the case with any drug or vaccine, there is a small chance of allergic reactions, more serious reactions, or even death after receiving the pneumococcal vaccine.

Watch for and be familiar with how to treat minor side effects, such as low-grade fever or tenderness, at the injection site.

Call your health care provider if moderate or serious side effects appear after the pneumococcal vaccine has been given, or if you have any questions or concerns related to the vaccine.

Talk to your doctor before receiving the pneumococcal vaccine if you have a fever or an illness that is more serious than a cold or if there is a chance you might be pregnant. The vaccine may be withheld or delayed.

Call your health care provider if you are not sure if the pneumococcal vaccine should be delayed, withheld, or only given to a specific person.

References    Return to top

American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Infectious Diseases. Recommended immunization schedules for children and adolescents--United States, 2008. Pediatrics. 2008;121(1):219-220.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recommended immunization schedules for persons aged 0–18 years--United States, 2008. MMWR. 2007;56:Q1-Q4.

Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. Recommended adult immunization schedule: United States, October 2007-September 2008. Ann Intern Med. 2007;147(10):725-729.

Update Date: 6/16/2008

Updated by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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