Which Asthmatics Should Get the Pneumococcal Vaccine?

Pneumococcal vaccines protect asthmatics from bacteria that cause pneumonia and meningitis

Most adults with asthma know they need to protect themselves from diseases that impact their breathing. And being vaccinated is an easy method to reduce your risk. 

Yet according to a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study, just 54 percent of adults with work-related asthma have been vaccinated against pneumococcal disease.

This new study reported that adults with work-related asthma were more likely to have reported receiving a pneumococcal vaccine (54%) than adults with non-work-related asthma (35%).

This means there is a large vaccination gap in working adults with asthma.

“People with work-related asthma are particularly vulnerable to pneumococcal pneumonia,” said National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Director, John Howard, M.D.

“Vaccination is the best way to prevent pneumococcal disease, including pneumonia,” said Dr. Howard.

Pneumococcal vaccines help protect against some of the more than 90 types of pneumococcal bacteria.

The CDC recommends that all adults with asthma, whether work-related or not, get the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine.

Of the adults with asthma in the study, researchers estimated 15 percent had work-related asthma.

This study found that among adults with work-related asthma, pneumococcal vaccine coverage was lowest among Hispanics (36 percent), those without health insurance (39 percent), and adults ages 18 to 44 years (42 percent).

“I believe an information gap exists among asthmatics 18 to 44 years of age concerning their need for pneumococcal vaccination,” said Soni Bozeman, Pharm.D., a Clinical Pharmacist with Brookshires Grocery Pharmacy.

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“As community pharmacists, we stand ready to educate this patient population about the risks they face, and the importance of preventing pneumonia through vaccination,” said Bozeman.

CDC estimates that about 900,000 Americans get pneumococcal pneumonia each year and about 5 to 7 percent die from it. Adults with asthma who get pneumococcal pneumonia are at risk for additional complications including asthma exacerbation and invasive pneumococcal disease.

Katelynn Dodd, M.P.H., lead author and an epidemiologist in the Respiratory Health Division, NIOSH, said “To increase the number of adults with asthma who are vaccinated against pneumococcal disease, we recommend that healthcare providers verify if their patients who have asthma have received a pneumococcal vaccine and offer the vaccine to those not vaccinated.”

Pneumococcal disease is an infection caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae, which can cause many types of illnesses including ear infections, meningitis, and pneumonia.

According to the CDC, vaccination is the safest, most effective way to protect yourself from getting pneumococcal disease.

There are two types of pneumococcal vaccines, conjugate vaccines and polysaccharide vaccines.

The CDC recommends vaccination with the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine PCV13 or Prevnar13 for:

  • All babies and children younger than 2 years old
  • All adults 65 years or older
  • People 2 through 64 years old who are at increased risk for disease due to certain medical conditions

Separately, the CDC recommends vaccination with the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine PPSV23 or Pneumovax23 for:

  • All adults 65 years or older
  • People 2 through 64 years old who are at increased risk for disease due to certain medical conditions
  • Adults 19 through 64 years old who smoke cigarettes

The CDC Vaccine Price List provides private sector vaccine prices for general information.

Vaccine discount information can be found here.