Vaccinations for cancer patients: What to know

Certain types of chemotherapy and radiation therapy can weaken the immune system, putting cancer patients at increased risk for life-threatening infections. Because of this, many cancer patients may need to get revaccinated against diseases they received vaccines for as children. And some may require additional vaccines or boosters to help protect such against infections. But not all common vaccines are recommended for every cancer patient. That’s because the benefits – and safety — vary from patient to patient. Vaccination recommendations for cancer patients To do their job, vaccines require a healthy immune system that’s able to recognize and kill disease-causing germs. And it takes a healthy immune system at least 2 weeks from the time of vaccination to start recognizing and killing germs. That means vaccination timing is just as important as getting the vaccine itself. In general, vaccines aren’t recommended during chemotherapy or radiation therapy. (Stem cell transplants have their own recommendations, so it’s important to speak with your doctor about vaccinations if you’re undergoing a transplant.) To ensure you’re getting the right vaccinations at the right time, talk to your doctor about the best vaccination timetable for you.  So, which vaccines should you discuss with your oncologist? Below are the general vaccine recommendations for cancer patients. Influenza vaccine (the flu shot): Talk to your doctor You can typically get the flu shot at least 2 weeks before chemotherapy or between cycles of chemotherapy. Cancer patients should not get the nasal mist flu vaccine as it contains the weakened flu virus and can lead to an infection. The flu injection has the dead flu virus and is safe...