The National Foundation for Infectious Diseases is aiming to boost pneumonia vaccination rates among at-risk patients.

Northeast Ohio Cardiovascular Specialists is among the groups working with the national nonprofit, led by Dr. Thomas File, chair of the infectious disease division at Summa Health System in Akron, Ohio.

The goal of the project is to educate patients “to see what we can do to increase the uptake of utilization of this vaccine for patients who are at greater risk for complications,” said File. “I consider this part of the heart-healthy preventive measures.”

The pneumococcal disease vaccine is recommended for people older than 18 who have underlying conditions — including chronic heart disease — that put them at higher risk for complications from infection, File said. The vaccine also is recommended for everyone 65 and older.

However, File said, studies have shown less than 20 percent of patients with underlying disease who are younger than 65 get the vaccine, despite the recommendations.

To raise awareness, the national group worked with the Akron cardiology practice to develop an educational sheet that can be shared with patients, File said. Ritzman Pharmacies and Walgreens then will report whether the number of pneumococcal vaccines they administer increases.

The vaccine is often covered by insurance companies for at-risk patients, File said.

“One of our goals is to increase public awareness of the importance of these preventive vaccines,” File said.

If the pilot project is successful, he said, “it can potentially be used nationwide.”

— Cheryl Powell, Akron Beacon Journal