Pneumococcal Vaccination Among Adults With Work-Related Asthma

More than half of adult workers with work-related asthma have received a pneumococcal pneumonia vaccine, according to new research published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. For adults with work-related asthma, which is asthma triggered by exposures in the work environment, pneumococcal symptoms may be more severe than symptoms for non-work-related asthma. Getting a vaccine is the most effective way to protect against infection.

Pneumococcal pneumonia is caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria that can invade the lungs. Every year, about 900,000 Americans get pneumococcal pneumonia, and 5%–7% die from it. The infection is especially risky for those with underlying disease such as asthma, so prevention is critical.

Researchers analyzed information from the CDC 2012-2013 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) available from 29 states, for adults aged 18–64 years with asthma who have ever held a job. This information represented about 12 million people and enabled the researchers to examine pneumococcal vaccination coverage by work-related asthma status. They found that 42% of previously or currently employed adults with asthma had received a pneumococcal vaccination. Fifty-four percent of adults with work-related asthma reported being vaccinated, compared to 35% of adults with non-work-related asthma.

Adults with work-related asthma who were Hispanic (36%) and those without health insurance (39%) had the lowest vaccination coverage. One limitation of the study is that the information used in the analysis was for adults living in 29 states, so the results may not be representative nationally or of non-participating states.

The researchers recommend that healthcare providers verify if their patients who have asthma have received a pneumococcal vaccine and offer the vaccine to those not vaccinated. Other potential interventions include:

  • Educating and encouraging healthcare practitioners to take an active role in advising patients to be vaccinated.
  • Educating potential vaccine recipients about the impact of pneumococcal infection and the importance of prevention.
  • Creating systems, such as electronic medical records, to make patient pneumococcal vaccination status readily available for physicians.
  • Clarifying third-party reimbursement for vaccination.

Patients with asthma should also take an active role by knowing their vaccine status and asking their healthcare providers about vaccination.