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Pneumovax, Prevnar, and Prevnar 13 are the three vaccines used to prevent pneumonia and other pneumococcal diseases. These injected vaccines work by "tricking" the body into thinking it has been exposed to S. pneumoniae bacteria. Possible side effects include fever, drowsiness, and pain. Before receiving a pneumonia vaccine, tell your healthcare provider if you have Guillain-Barré syndrome, a bleeding disorder, or any allergies.

What Is the Pneumonia Vaccine?

There are actually three different pneumonia vaccines: the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (Pneumovax®), the old pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (Prevnar®), and the new pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (Prevnar 13®). Pneumovax is typically used in older individuals (usually age 65 and older), although it is also approved for use in certain children as young as two years old. Prevnar 13 can be used in young children (under the age of 2) as well as older adults (age 50 and over).
 
All three vaccines are approved to prevent pneumococcal pneumonia as well as other pneumococcal diseases.
 
As of 2010, the old Prevnar vaccine is no longer being made and should be entirely replaced by Prevnar 13.
 
(Click Pneumonia Vaccine Uses for more information on what the vaccine is used for, including possible off-label indications.)
 

Thimerosal Content and Other Concerns

None of the pneumonia vaccines contains thimerosal (a mercury-containing preservative). People who are concerned about exposure to this substance can be confident that these vaccines have no thimerosal -- not even trace amounts.
 
Some people also are concerned about aluminum content of vaccines. While Pneumovax contains no aluminum, Prevnar and Prevnar 13 contain 0.125 mg of aluminum per dose. Also, these vaccines are not made from animal components or human fetal cell lines, unlike some vaccines.
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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