Pneumovax Vaccine for High Risk Kids

A doctor is injecting a vaccine to a baby boy
Karl Tapales / Getty Images

Pneumovax 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 (PPSV23) is given to high-risk children who are at least two years old, including children with heart problems, lung problems (excluding asthma), 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.

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


Other facts about Pneumovax include that:

  • Prevnar is another pneumococcal vaccine that younger children get a four-dose series. The latest Prevnar 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; all adults over age 65 should also get the Pneumovax 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 shot to get it at the same time as they get a flu shot.
  • Pneumovax 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 vaccine. The risk of more serious reactions, although possible, is extremely small.
  • Children should not be given Pneumovax if they have had a life-threatening reaction to a previous dose of Pneumovax, 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 shot.

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

Should Your Child Get the Vaccine?

Most healthy children don't need to get Pneumovax.

Pneumovax 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 (except asthma)
  • 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 vaccine and it hasn't been offered yet.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  • Kobayashi M, et al. Intervals between PCV13 and PPSV23 vaccines: recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). MMWR. 2015;64(34):944-7.
  • MMWR, December 10, 2010, Vo1 59, #RR-11 Prevention of Pneumococcal Disease Among Infants and Children—Use of PCV13 & PPSV23
  • MMWR, June 28, 2013, Vol 62, #25 Use of PCV-13 and PPSV-23 Vaccines Among Children Aged 6–18 Years with Immunocompromising Conditions