Precautions and Warnings With the Pneumococcal Polysaccharide Vaccine

If you are having your spleen removed, it's best to get the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine at least two weeks ahead of time, if possible. Although it is generally well tolerated, there are several safety issues to be aware of with the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine. Warnings and precautions also apply to people who are allergic to any ingredients used to make the product.

What Should I Tell My Healthcare Provider?

Before you receive the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (Pneumovax®), talk to your healthcare provider if you have:
 
  • Had any sort of a reaction to a vaccine before
  • A moderate or severe illness
  • Guillain-Barré syndrome
  • Chronic cerebrospinal fluid leakage due to a skull fracture, brain surgery, or any other cause
  • Any allergies, including to foods, dyes, or preservatives.
     
Also, let your healthcare provider know if you are:
 
  • Pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant
  • Breastfeeding.
     
Make sure to tell the healthcare provider about any medications you are taking, including prescription and nonprescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.
 

Specific Warnings and Precautions for the Pneumococcal Polysaccharide Vaccine

Warnings and precautions to be aware of prior to receiving the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine include the following:
 
  • This vaccine may not be effective for preventing bacterial meningitis in individuals with chronic cerebrospinal fluid leakage, such as people with a skull fracture.
     
  • Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine does not contain thimerosal, a mercury-containing preservative. People who are concerned about exposure to this substance can be confident that this vaccine has no thimerosal -- not even trace amounts.
     
  • Some people also are concerned about the aluminum content of vaccines. This vaccine contains no aluminum. In addition, the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine is not made from animal components or human fetal cell lines, unlike some vaccines.
     
  • You can receive the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine if you have a mild illness, such as the common cold. However, it is usually best to postpone the vaccine in the case of a moderate or severe illness.
     
  • Make sure your healthcare provider knows if you have ever had any serious reactions (including Guillain-Barré syndrome) to any vaccines in the past.
     
  • If you will be having chemotherapy, radiation, or a splenectomy (surgical removal of the spleen), appropriate timing of this vaccine is important. It should be given at least two weeks ahead of time, if possible.
     
  • The pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine is considered a pregnancy Category C medication. This means it is unknown if it is safe for use during pregnancy (see Pneumovax and Pregnancy).
     
  • As with most vaccines, the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine is considered safe for breastfeeding women (see Pneumovax and Breastfeeding).
     
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Pneumococcal Polysaccharide Vaccine Information

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