Should transplant patients get flu shots?

October 17, 2011

Roll up your sleeves, transplant patients! You need your flu shot – maybe more than other folks.

This comes from Dr. Ramsey Hachem, Washington University pulmonologist at Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

People seem to have excuses every year as to why they don’t need a flu shot – flu shots make them feel sick, they never get the flu, it’s inconvenient, they’re just tired of getting stuck.

Sorry, we aren’t buying any of it.

Influenza is a deceptively devastating illness. For many of its victims, it’s ends up being a week or two of fever, aches, chills, sore throat, coughing and general misery. 

But for people with weakened immune systems, it can be much worse, says Dr. Hachen.  Transplant patients, this means YOU.

People on immunosuppressants are more likely to catch the flu, he says. Then, in these patients, the flu is more likely to lead to complications  including sinus and ear infections and pneumonia. These complications, in someone whose immune system is impaired, are more likely to be severe and lead to hospitalizations.

The Centers for Disease Control’s flu information site recommends that EVERYONE over age six months get vaccinated.

The only caveat, says Dr. Hachem, is that transplant patients, ideally, should get a vaccine with a dead virus. Flu vaccines work by using dead influenza viruses to  trick the body into making antibodies against the flu. The only exception is inhaled vaccine, or FluMist, which uses a weakened live virus.

The problem with FluMist is that in rare cases, it can actually cause flu symptoms. Although it’s unlikely to cause the actual illness, transplant patients and others with weak immune systems shouldn’t take the chance.

S0, if you haven’t already, get that shot and stay healthy through this flu season.

There are still opportunities to get free flu shots supplied by the Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital. Check here for dates and times.


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