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How Does Pneumovax Work?

This vaccine contains polysaccharide (sugar) molecules from the outside coating of the S. pneumoniae bacteria. Simply stated, this vaccine "tricks" the body into thinking it has been exposed to the actual bacteria, but without the risks of a real infection. If future exposure to the bacteria occurs, the immune system "remembers" the bacteria and is better able to fight it off.
Pneumovax is different from the pneumococcal vaccine that is used in infants (Prevnar®, Prevnar 13®). Pneumovax contains antigens from 23 different types of S. pneumoniae, while the infant vaccine contains antigens from only 7 types (Prevnar) or 13 types (Prevnar 13). Also, the polysaccharides in the infant vaccines are bound, or "conjugated," to a nontoxic diphtheria protein; this change produces a much better immune response in young children.

When and How to Get Vaccinated

Some general considerations to keep in mind with Pneumovax include the following:
  • This vaccine is typically given as a single dose. In some high-risk individuals, a second dose may be recommended five years after the first.
  • This vaccine is injected either into a muscle (intramuscularly) or just under the skin (subcutaneously), usually in the upper arm.
  • People can be vaccinated if they have a minor illness, such as the common cold. However, the vaccine should be postponed if the individual is moderately or severely ill.
  • Pneumovax can be given at the same time as a seasonal influenza vaccine, although the two vaccines should be given in separate arms.

Pneumovax Dosing Information

There is only one recommended dose for this vaccine, regardless of your age or weight (see Pneumovax Dosage for more information).
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Pneumovax Vaccine Information

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