pneumococcal vaccine (Pneumovax 23, Pnu-Imune 23)

What is pneumococcal vaccine-injection, and how does it work (mechanism of action)?

Pneumococcal vaccine is used for prevention of pneumonia. This pneumococcal vaccine contains chemicals (polysaccharides) extracted from 23 types of Streptococcus pneumonia bacteria. Upon injecting pneumococcal vaccine, our body recognizes these chemical as foreign and produces antibodies to destroy the chemicals. Antibodies are blood protein that help the body fight infection and destroy other harmful substances. Once produced, these antibodies destroy injected Streptococcus pneumonia chemicals. However, the antibodies remain active in the body and can detect the same chemicals from live Streptococcus pneumonia in the future. If a vaccinated person comes in contact with Streptococcus pneumonia the antibodies will destroy the bacteria and prevent pneumonia or reduce its severity. The FDA approved pneumococcal vaccine polyvalent in June 1983.

This vaccine should not be confused with pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13) used in special conditions (children <5 years old, for example) because often in the medical literature the non-specific term "pneumococcal vaccine" is used.

What brand names are available for pneumococcal vaccine-injection?

Pneumovax 23, Pnu-Imune 23

Is pneumococcal vaccine-injection available as a generic drug?


Do I need a prescription for pneumococcal vaccine-injection?


What are the side effects of pneumococcal vaccine-injection?

Common side effects of pneumococcal vaccine are:

  • Injection site pain
  • Redness
  • Soreness
  • Tenderness

Other side effects include:

Severe allergic reactions may occur.

What is the dosage for pneumococcal vaccine-injection?

The recommended dose is 0.5 ml injected intramuscularly or subcutaneously. Routine revaccination is not recommended unless patients' previous vaccine history is unknown.

Pneumococcal vaccine (PCV 23) is not recommended for children under the age of 2.


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Which drugs or supplements interact with pneumococcal vaccine-injection?

Administration of pneumococcal vaccine is not recommended at the same time as zoster vaccine live (Zostavax). When they are given concurrently, pneumococcal vaccine reduces the response of zoster vaccine compared to those who received both vaccines 4 weeks apart.

Medications such as cyclosporine (Sandimmune, Neoral) and tacrolimus (Prograf) that weaken the immune system should not be used with pneumococcal vaccine. Cyclosporine and tacrolimus reduce the effects of pneumococcal vaccine; therefore, such patients must be evaluated before recommending pneumococcal vaccine.

Is pneumococcal vaccine-injection safe to take if I'm pregnant or breastfeeding?

It is not known whether pneumococcal vaccine enters breast milk.

What else should I know about pneumococcal vaccine-injection?

What preparations of pneumococcal vaccine-injection are available?

  • Pneumococcal vaccine is a sterile, liquid vaccine for intramuscular or subcutaneous injections only.
  • Pneumococcal vaccines are available in 5-dose vials.
  • They are also available as a pack of 10 single dose vials and 10 single-dose pre-filled syringes.
  • Each 0.5 ml dose contains 25 mcg polysaccharide of each pneumococcal type.

How should I keep pneumococcal vaccine-injection stored?

Pneumococcal vaccine should be refrigerated between 2 C to 8 C (36 F to 46 F).


Pneumococcal polyvalent vaccine (Pneumovax 23, Pnu-Imune 23) is a vaccine used for individuals over the age of 50 years and children age 2 years or older who are at an increased risk for pneumococcal disease, and have no complicating medical issues. Side effects, drug interactions, dosing and storage information, and pregnancy safety information is provided.

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Medically reviewed by John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP; Board Certified Emergency Medicine


CDC. Pneumococcal Vaccination.