Many Patients with Asthma Are Failing to Get the Pneumococcal Vaccine

Several years ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its recommendation for use of the pneumococcal vaccine to include smokers and patients with asthma. Despite that recommendation, many adults with asthma still haven’t received the vaccine, according to a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.  Pneumococcus is a bacteria, and is a major cause of pneumonia.

In that study, data from the 2012–2013 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Asthma Call-back Survey were examined, which consisted of information from 10,000 individuals in 29 different states with current asthma who had ever been employed. The study concluded that among an estimated 12 million adults with asthma who had been or were employed, 42% had received pneumococcal vaccine. Nearly 54% of those with work-related asthma received the vaccine, versus 35% of those with non-work-related asthma. Among those with work-related asthma, vaccination was only 39% among those without health insurance and 36% among Hispanics.

Invasive disease from pneumococcus caused 43,500 cases of illness and 5,000 deaths in 2009, and pneumococcal disease remains a major cause of illness and death today. The virus can cause bacteremia (bacteria in the circulating blood), meningitis (bacteria in the fluid around the brain and spinal cord), and infection of other normally sterile sites. Smokers, those with asthma, and anyone over age 65 are advised to get the pneumococcal vaccine.

The study concluded that healthcare providers should verify whether their patients with asthma have received the pneumococcal vaccine, and should offer it to those who have not.

Information for this article was obtained from New England Journal of Medicine’s Journal Watch and the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.