Should UK Pneumococcal Vaccine Eligibility Criteria Include Alcohol Dependency in Areas with High Alcohol-Related Mortality?

Vaccines (Basel). 2018 May 2;6(2):25. doi: 10.3390/vaccines6020025.


A recently reported steep increase in the incidence of invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD) in adults in the North East of England was primarily associated with pneumococcal sero-types found in the 23-valent pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23). This region also has one of the highest rates of alcohol-related premature mortality and morbidity in the UK. Given that alcohol dependence is long acknowledged as one of the strongest risk factors for IPD mortality, we feel there is an increasingly compelling case to look again at the divergence of UK vaccine guidance from that of the World Health Organisation and the Centre for Disease Control in the USA, in the non-inclusion of alcoholism as an indicator condition that would potentially benefit from receiving PPSV23 vaccine. Such a re-think would represent a responsible evaluation of vaccination guidance in the face of newly emerging epidemiological findings and would have the potential to save lives in a very marginalised and vulnerable section of the population. We propose therefore that alcohol dependency (now referred to as alcohol use disorder), should be re-considered an indicator condition for receiving pneumococcal vaccine in North East England, where mortality from pneumococcal disease has been rising and which already has an excessive burden of alcohol-related mortality.

Keywords: alcohol use disorder; alcoholism; mortality; pneumococcal vaccines; risk factors.