People with myeloma and other types of cancer are at greater risk for severe infections and serious complications from influenza (the flu) and pneumonia. In fact, people with multiple myeloma may be 15 times more likely to contract an infection than those without the disease.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend seasonal flu shots for anyone who currently has cancer and everyone who lives with and cares for those with cancer, as well as those who have survived cancer in the past. For those who have received autologous or allogeneic stem cell transplants, the CDC recommends annual flu vaccines beginning one year after the transplant was completed. Although people who are currently undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy are generally advised to avoid receiving vaccines, the flu shot is one important exception.
People with cancer should only receive the flu vaccine by injection, never the nasal spray version of the vaccine. The injected version of the flu shot contains inactivated flu virus, while the virus in the nasal spray is a live virus.
What does it involve?
For maximum protection from the flu, get a flu shot each year in September or October, as soon as the vaccine becomes available, and before the flu begins spreading widely. The flu vaccine takes about two weeks to become fully effective. Flu season begins in October and usually peaks between January and March. The flu vaccine cannot infect you with the flu.
The flu shot is usually injected into the muscle of the upper arm.
You can receive a flu shot from your doctor. Some pharmacies also offer flu shots on a walk-in basis.
Ask your doctor about getting a pneumonia shot and whether your other immunizations are up to date.
If you are allergic to eggs, tell your doctor or pharmacist. There are egg-free versions of the flu vaccine.
The flu vaccine may not be appropriate for people who have shown hypersensitivity to it in the past.
Your shoulder or arm may feel sore for a day or two after receiving a flu shot. You may experience itching or swelling at the site of the injection.
Some people experience mild flu-like symptoms for a day or two after receiving a flu shot. Symptoms may include headache, muscle pain, fever, and skin rash.
For more details about this treatment, visit:
Flu Shot and Immunizations – Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
Myeloma, the Flu and You – Weill Cornell Medicine Myeloma Center
Should People With Cancer Get a Flu Shot? – American Cancer Society
Vaccination During Cancer Treatment – American Cancer Society