Pneumovax Vaccine for High Risk Kids

A doctor is injecting a vaccine to a baby boy
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Pneumovax 23 is a pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine that provides protection against 23 types of Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria that can cause pneumonia, blood infections (bacteremia), and meningitis.

Pneumovax

Pneumovax 23 (PPSV23) is given to high-risk children who are at least two years old, including children with heart problems, lung problems (including asthma if treated with high-dose oral corticosteroid therapy), sickle cell disease, diabetes, cochlear implants or cerebrospinal fluid leaks.

Children undergoing any treatment or who have a disease or condition that impairs their immune system also receive Pneumovax 23.

Most children only get one dose of Pneumovax 23, but children with sickle cell disease or an impaired immune system may need a second dose five years after the first.

Facts 

Other facts about Pneumovax 23 include that:

  • Prevnar 13 is another pneumococcal vaccine that younger children get a four-dose series. The latest Prevnar 13 vaccine is a pneumococcal conjugate vaccine that protects against 13 types of pneumococcal bacteria.
  • Although not a risk factor for kids, adults between the ages of 19 and 64 years with asthma should get a single dose of Pneumovax 23; all adults over age 65 should also get the Pneumovax 23 vaccine, including a second dose five years after their first shot.
  • Since pneumococcal infections can complicate cases of the flu, it can be a good idea for high-risk kids who need a Pneumovax 23 shot to get it at the same time as they get a flu shot.
  • Pneumovax 23 side effects can include injection site reactions, such as redness or pain where the shot is given. Other side effects can include fever, muscle aches, or more severe local reactions, although these occur in less than 1% of people who get the Pneumovax 23 vaccine. The risk of more serious reactions, although possible, is extremely small.
  • Children should not be given Pneumovax 23 if they have had a life-threatening reaction to a previous dose of Pneumovax 23, if they have had a severe allergic reaction to any component of another vaccine, or if they are moderately or severely ill when they are supposed to get their Pneumovax 23 shot.

And like most vaccines in the current childhood immunization schedule, Pneumovax 23 is thimerosal-free.

Should Your Child Get the Vaccine?

Most healthy children don't need to get Pneumovax 23.

Pneumovax 23 should be given at least 8 weeks after their last dose of Prevnar 13 for high-risk kids with certain underlying medical conditions, such as:

  • Functional or anatomic asplenia
  • CSF leaks
  • Cochlear implants
  • Chronic heart disease
  • Chronic lung disease (including asthma if treated with high-dose oral corticosteroid therapy)
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Chronic liver disease
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Most immunocompromising conditions, including HIV infection
  • Chronic renal failure
  • Nephrotic syndrome
  • Leukemia
  • Lymphoma
  • Hodgkin disease
  • Solid organ transplants

Talk to your pediatrician or pediatric specialist if you think your child is supposed to get the Pneumovax 23 vaccine and it hasn't been offered yet.

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Article Sources
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  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Pneumococcal Vaccination: What Everyone Should Know. Updated August 7, 2020.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Pneumococcal Vaccination: Summary of Who and When to Vaccinate. Updated November 21, 2019.

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Pneumococcal Vaccines (PCV13 and PPSV23). Published November 2019.