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What Is the Pneumococcal Polysaccharide Vaccine Used For?

How Does It Work?

This vaccine contains polysaccharide (sugar) molecules from the outside coating of the S. pneumoniae bacteria. Simply stated, the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine "tricks" the body into thinking it has been exposed to the actual bacteria, but without the risks of a real infection. If future exposure to the bacteria occurs, the immune system "remembers" the bacteria and is better able to fight it off.
This vaccine is different from the pneumococcal vaccine used in infants (Prevnar®, Prevnar 13®). The pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine contains antigens from 23 different types of S. pneumoniae, while the infant vaccines contain antigens from only 7 types (for Prevnar) or 13 types (for Prevnar 13). Also, the polysaccharides in the infant vaccines are bound, or "conjugated," to a nontoxic diphtheria protein; this change produces a much better immune response in young children.

Is the Pneumococcal Polysaccharide Vaccine Used for Off-Label Purposes?

On occasion, your healthcare provider may recommend this product for something other than the uses discussed in this article (this would be known as an "off-label" use). Giving the vaccine to any children under the age of two or to people who do not fit into the recommended categories would be considered off-label uses for pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine.
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Pneumococcal Polysaccharide Vaccine Information

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