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Merck's Pneumovax is only approved for children older than 2 and adults over 50 who are at increased risk for pneumococcal disease. Sales last year totaled $376 million. Prevnar, approved for babies as young as six weeks old, was the top-selling vaccine in the world last year, with sales of about $3.7 billion.
Pneumovax sells for about $50 a shot on average, while Prevnar 13 costs $114 on average. Adults need one or two Pneumovax shots and then a booster after age 65. Pfizer hasn't determined how many Prevnar boosters will be needed after the initial dose.
Because Merck's vaccine protects against strains not covered by Prevnar, it is likely seniors would receive both.
Pneumovax was first approved in 1977 and uses an older vaccine mechanism than Prevnar, which was first approved in 2000. Prevnar is a conjugated vaccine, which means it contains pneumococcal bacteria connected to a protein. The addition of the protein helps the immune system recognize the bacteria, especially in babies.
Shares of Pfizer Inc. fell 23 cents to $19.76 in trading. Shares of Whitehouse Station, N.J.-based Merck & Co. Inc. fell 40 cents to $35.57.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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