Pneumococcal Polysaccharide (Pneumovax®) Vaccine/Prevnar®

What do the pneumococcal polysaccharide (Pneumovax) and Prevnar vaccines do?

Pneumovax and Prevnar help protect against severe infections due to the bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae and pneumococcus in the blood, in the lungs (pneumonia), and of the coverings of the brain (meningitis). These two vaccines are typically given one year apart to enhance protection against these bacteria.

How do Pneumovax and Prevnar work?

As inactivated-bacteria vaccines, Pneumovax and Prevnar help your body learn to attack bacteria if you’re exposed to it. This means you’re less likely to get sick from an infection caused by these bacteria. However, because no vaccine is 100% effective, it’s still possible to get a case of Streptococcus pneumoniae even after you have been vaccinated.

How many doses will I need?

Both Pneumovax and Prevnar are given one year apart to enhance protection against Streptococcus pneumoniae and pneumococcus. Most people will only need one dose of the vaccine (one shot). However, you may need a second dose if:

  • You had your first shot more than five years ago, and you are now over the age of 65
  • Your immune system is weakened
  • You have chronic kidney failure or nephrotic syndrome
  • You have sickle cell disease or have had your spleen removed

Who is the vaccine recommended for?

  • Everyone that is 65 years of age or older
  • People with sickle cell disease
  • People who have had their spleen removed
  • Those living in nursing homes or other institutions where individuals have long-term health problems
  • People with conditions that weaken the immune system, such as cancer, HIV, or an organ transplant
  • Those receiving long-term medicine that suppresses the immune system, including steroids
  • Alaskan natives and certain Native Americans over the age of 50 who are living in high-risk areas

Pneumovax is also recommended for high-risk individuals including:

  • Children that are age two or older
  • People with heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease, diabetes, or cirrhosis
  • Individuals with alcoholism
  • Those with cochlear implants or leaking cerebrospinal fluid

Are there any side effects or risks associated with the vaccine?

Most people experience little to no side effects from Pneumovax and Prevnar. You may have some mild pain and redness at the site of the injection. Serious problems are rare, and most are due to an allergic reaction to part of your vaccine. If moderate or severe side effects appear after receiving Pneumovax or Prevnar, or if you have any questions or concerns, talk to an ID Care specialist.