Pneumonia risk is higher among celiac disease patients who are not vaccinated against the infection. The study compared 9,803 celiac patients with 101,755 controls, and the rate of pneumonia was found to be similar. But the researchers did find a 28 percent increased risk in celiac patients who were unvaccinated, compared to the controls.
The increased risk was seen in patients younger than 65, was highest around the time their celiac disease had been diagnosed, and was maintained for over five years after diagnosis. Only 26.6 percent of the patients were vaccinated after being diagnosed with celiac disease. The authors wrote, “As only a minority of patients with celiac disease are being vaccinated, there is a missed opportunity to intervene to protect these patients from pneumonia.”
Celiac disease patients may be at a greater risk of pneumonia due to a diminished spleen function, which can affect the pneumonia-causing bacteria.
The Department of Health recommends that infants, people over the age of 65, people aged two to 65 with a higher risk for pneumonia due to a damaged or absent spleen, and children and adults living with long-term illness like diabetes all get vaccinated against pneumonia.
In some celiac patients, their spleen does not function properly, which increases their risk of pneumonia. These patients are recommended to receive the pneumococcal vaccine to reduce their risk of pneumonia.
Patients should be vaccinated based on their own unique needs, meaning if a patient with celiac disease does not have issues with their spleen they may very well not require the vaccination until they are over the age of 65.
Dr. Benjamin Lebwohl from Columbia University Medical Center said, “We know that patients with celiac disease have diminished spleen function, which appears to affect their susceptibility to bacterial pneumonia. This is the first study, to my knowledge, that divides the risk of pneumonia in celiac disease according to vaccination status. Whether all celiac disease patients should be given this vaccine is still debated, and guidelines differ on this point. There is little downside to pneumococcal vaccination, but we do not have gold-standard evidence from randomized trials that prove that pneumococcal vaccination prevents pneumonia in celiac disease patients younger than 65. The present study lends support to the practice.”
If you have celiac disease, speak to your doctor about your risk of pneumonia disease based on the functioning of your spleen.