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Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine

The pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine helps protect against severe infections due to a group of bacteria called Streptococcus pneumoniae. Infections can occur: 

Alternative Names

Vaccine - pneumovax; Vaccine - PPSV23; Immunization - pneumovax



After you get this vaccine, your body's immune system learns to attack the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria if you come in contact with it. This makes you less likely to get sick from an infection due to this bacteria.

No vaccine is 100% effective. So, it is still possible to get an infection from Streptococcus pneumoniae, even after you have been vaccinated.


The vaccine is recommended for:

  • Cigarette smokers age 19 to 64
  • Everyone age 65 or older
  • People age 2 or older with a high-risk of infection:
    • Includes persons with heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease, alcoholism, diabetes, cirrhosis , cochlear implants, and leaks of cerebrospinal fluid
    • People with sickle cell disease
    • People who have had their spleen removed or whose spleens are not working well
    • People who live in nursing homes (extended-care facilities)
    • People who live in any institution where there are other people with long-term health problems
    • People with conditions that weaken the immune system, such as cancer, HIV, or an organ transplant
    • People who receive long-term medicines that suppress the immune system, including steroids
    • Certain groups of Alaskan natives and Native American populations 2 years through 5 years old or over age 50

You need at least one shot of the vaccine. One dose works for most people. You may need a second dose again 5 years later if:

  • You had the first shot before age 65
  • Your immune system is weakened
  • You have chronic kidney failure or nephrotic syndrome
  • You have sickle cell disease
  • Your spleen has been removed

The pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine is not used to protect against pneumococcal diseases in children under age 2. A different vaccine, the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine 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. You may have some pain and redness at the place where you get the shot. Serious problems are rare and are mainly due to allergic reactions to a part of the vaccine.

The pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine is an inactivated-bacteria vaccine. You cannot get an infection from receiving this vaccine.

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

Talk to your health care provider 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.

Call your health care provider if you are not sure whether you or your child should get or delay the pneumococcal vaccine.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Use of 13-Valent Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine and 23-Valent Pneumococcal Polysaccharide Vaccine for Adults with Immunocompromising Conditions: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). MMWR. 2012;61(40):816-819.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) Recommended Immunization Schedule for Adults Aged 19 Years and Older-- United States, 2013. Available Accessed February 8, 2013.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) Recommended Immunization Schedule for Persons Aged 0 Through 18 Years-- United States, 2013. Available Accessed February 8, 2013.

Updated: 1/1/2013

David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.

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