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Pneumovax and Prevnar Vaccinations for Pneumonia: What is the Difference?

by The GoodRx Pharmacist on March 2, 2017 at 2:19 pm

Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs that can be caused by viruses, bacteria, and fungi. Symptoms include a high fever, respiratory issues and chest pain, making this infection especially dangerous for young children or older adults. Currently, there are two vaccines approved by the FDA for prevention of pneumococcal disease: Pneumovax 23 and Prevnar 13.

But which one is best for you or your loved ones, and why?

Who should receive the Pneumovax 23 vaccination?

The CDC recommends that individuals ages 2 through 64 years should receive Pneumovax 23 if they meet any of the following criteria:

  • Cigarette smokers 19 years of age and older
  • Individuals with chronic liver disease
  • Candidates for or recipients of cochlear implants
  • Individuals with immunocompromising conditions
  • Those who have received an organ transplant
  • Individuals with chronic conditions like diabetes, COPD, heart disease, renal failure or nephrotic syndrome.

The CDC also recommends that individuals older than 65 years should receive Pneumovax 23, even if they have received a dose of another vaccine for pneumonia.

Who should receive the Prevnar 13 vaccination?

The CDC recommends that individuals should receive Prevnar 13 if they meet any of the following criteria:

  • Adults 65 years of age and older
  • Adults 19 to 64 years of age who have not previously received a dose of Prevnar 13 and have an immunocompromising condition, asplenia, a cerebrospinal fluid leak, or a cochlear implant
  • Infants and children 6 weeks of age and older

What is the difference between Pneumovax 23 and Prevnar 13

The main difference between the two is the amount of bacteria that the vaccine can help protect against. Pneumovax 23 protects against 23 types of pneumococcal bacteria, while Prevnar 13 protects against 13 types of pneumococcal bacteria.

What are the most common side effects associated with Pneumovax 23 and Prevnar 13?

As with most vaccines there are some side effects, like: injection site pain, injection site swelling, headache, weakness, tiredness, muscle pain, joint pain, decreased appetite, vomiting, fever, chills, rash or limitation of arm movement.

Be sure to talk with your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms for a prolonged period of time.

How are the vaccines administered?

Pneumovax 23 can be administered either subcutaneously or intramuscularly, while Prevnar 13 has to be administered intramuscularly.

Remember, Pneumonia shots are different from flu shots in that you don’t have to get the vaccine yearly. Pneumonia vaccinations are based on risk factors and age, so be sure to talk to your doctor if you think you might need one. You should be able to receive both Pneumovax 23 and Prevnar 13 at your local pharmacy. It may not require a prescription, depending on what state you live in, so be sure to reach out to your pharmacist for more information.

For more information about these vaccinations, read more here at the CDC. If you are still stuck on which vaccine is best for you, be sure you have a conversation with your doctor.


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