Who Makes the Pneumonia Vaccine?Pneumovax is made by Merck & Co., Inc. Prevnar 13 is made by Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
How Does It Work?These vaccines contain polysaccharide (sugar) molecules from the outside coating of the S. pneumoniae bacteria. Simply stated, these vaccines "trick" 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 contains antigens from 23 different types of S. pneumoniae. Prevnar contains antigens from only 7 types, and Prevnar 13 contains antigens from 13 types. Also, the polysaccharides in Prevnar and Prevnar 13 are bound, or "conjugated," to a nontoxic diphtheria protein; this change produces a much better immune response in young children.
When and How to Receive the Pneumonia VaccineSome general considerations to keep in mind with this vaccination include the following:
- Pneumovax is typically given as a single dose. In some high-risk individuals, a second dose may be recommended, five years after the first.
- Prevnar 13 is given as one to four doses, depending on the age when the first dose is given (the older the child, the fewer dosages that are given). For adults, it is just one dose.
- Pneumovax is injected either into a muscle (intramuscularly) or just under the skin (subcutaneously), usually in the upper arm. Prevnar 13 is given intramuscularly in the thigh or upper arm.
- People can be vaccinated if they have a minor illness, such as the common cold. However, the pneumonia vaccine should be postponed if the individual is moderately or severely ill.