Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine

The pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine helps protect against severe infections due to the bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae:



The pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine is an inactivated-bacteria vaccine. After you get a vaccine, your body learns to attack the bacteria if you are exposed to it. This means you are less likely to get sick from an infection due to this type of bacteria.

Because no vaccine is 100% effective, it is still possible to get a case of Streptococcus pneumoniae, even after you have been vaccinated.


The vaccine is recommended for:

  • Everyone age 65 or older
  • High-risk people age 2 or older
    • 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
    • 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
    • Alaskan natives and certain Native American populations over age 50 who live in high-risk areas

The CDC also recommends that smokers age 19 to 64 also receive the vaccine, even if they do not have any of the conditions listed above.

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

  • You had the first shot more than 5 years ago and you are now over age 65
  • Your immune system is weakened
  • You have chronic kidney failure or nephritic syndrome
  • You have sickle cell disease
  • Your spleen has been removed

The pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine does not protect against pneumococcal diseases in children under age 2. There is a different vaccine, the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, which 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 got the shot. Serious problems are rare and are mainly due to allergic reactions to a part of the vaccine.

Call your health care provider if moderate or serious side effects appear after the pneumococcal vaccine has been given, or 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.

Alternative Names

Vaccine - pneumovax; Immunization - pneumovax


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2012 immunization schedules for children 0 to 18 years of age. October 25, 2011.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recommended adult immunization schedule. United States. 2011 Proposed Revisions. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. October 28, 2010.

Updated: 4/18/2012

Reviewed by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

Notice: The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. Copyright 1997-2012, A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.