Adults who have asthma exacerbated by work setting have a higher risk of pneumonia, but only about half of them have been vaccinated against the infection.

That’s according to a study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Researchers from the Respiratory Health Division of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) note that about 54% of adults with work-related asthma have received the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine, which is recommended for all adults with asthma from ages 19 through 64 years.

While that is higher than for adults with nonwork-related asthma, 35%, it still is not enough, according to public health officials.

“People with work-related asthma are particularly vulnerable to pneumococcal pneumonia,” said NIOSH director John Howard, MD. “Vaccination is the best way to prevent pneumococcal disease, including pneumonia, and CDC recommends that all adults with asthma, whether work-related or not, get the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine.”

The report notes that adults with work-related asthma tend to have more severe asthma symptoms than those with nonwork-related asthma, making them more likely to develop pneumococcal pneumonia.

To reach their conclusions about vaccination rates, researchers analyzed data from the 2012-2013 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a state-based telephone survey, which includes an optional follow-up survey that collects detailed information on asthma.

Included in the analysis were nearly 10,000 adults ages 18 to 64 years with asthma from 29 states who have ever held a job. Overall, the study team estimated that asthma for about 15% of adults in the study was related to their work situation.

The lowest rates of pneumococcal vaccine coverage for work-related asthma patients were among Hispanics (36%), those without health insurance (39%), and adults ages 18 to 44 years (42%).

“Our study found that the vaccination coverage for pneumococcal disease among adults who have ever worked and have asthma falls short of achieving the coverage public health experts recommend,” explained lead author Katelynn Dodd, MPH, an epidemiologist. “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.”

The study also points out that the Healthy People 2020 goal seeks to achieve 60% coverage among high-risk adults, including those with asthma.

“Pneumococcal vaccination coverage among adults with work-related asthma and nonwork-related asthma is below the Healthy People 2020 target level,” study authors conclude. “Healthcare providers should verify pneumococcal vaccination status in their patients with asthma and offer the vaccine to those not vaccinated.”