Welders Should Receive Pneumococcal Vaccine

JANUARY 21, 2013
Jeannette Y. Wick, RPh, MBA, FASCP
Due to their increased susceptibility to pneumococcal pneumonia and invasive pneumococcal disease, welders are advised to receive the 23-valent pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine.

Welders are up to 6 times more likely to suffer from pneumococcal pneumonia than other healthy adults. They are also more likely to develop invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD) and to die of the infection. As a result, in 2011, the Department of Health in England issued a recommendation that all welders should receive the 23-valent pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPV23).
A review of previous studies in the July 2012 edition of Occupational Medicine estimated that vaccinating 588 welders against pneumococcal infection would prevent 1 case of IPD over a 10-year period. The researchers believe that metal fume is the causative agent. Its mechanism is unknown, but may involve free radical injury of host pulmonary defenses or excessive exogenous iron on which microorganisms feed.
There are more than a half million welders in the United States, and women are finding this field increasingly attractive. The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates this is a growing field that offers a good salary with a high school degree. Pharmacists can heighten awareness of situation among health-care professionals, welders, and their employers.

Ms. Wick is a visiting professor at the University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy and a freelance writer from Virginia.

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