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Vaccines help boost the body’s immune system and help to protect the body against specific infections and diseases by producing antibodies (substances produced by the body to help fight disease) without actually infecting us with the disease.
They trigger the immune system to produce its own antibodies, as it would if the body had been infected with a disease. This is called "active immunity".
The two main types of vaccine are:
You should always check with your medical team before having a certain vaccine. If you have a weak immune system, you should not have live vaccines. This may be the case if you’ve recently had chemotherapy or radiotherapy or are taking immunosuppressive treatment.
If the immune system is weakened the body is not be able to efficiently form an immune response even to the very small amounts of live virus contained within the vaccine, increasing the risk of developing the actual infection.
Inactive vaccines aren’t dangerous and are safe after cancer treatment. But they may be less effective in people who have low immunity.
If you’ve had high-dose chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant, you may have lost your immunity to certain diseases. You may need to be re-vaccinated after your treatment has ended.
No matter what vaccine you need, it is important to check with your doctor or medical team before having any type of vaccination.
Should always research what type of vaccines are needed to travel to a specific country before you book, as it may be a vaccine that is too risky to have. This may mean it is better to choose a different holiday location
Inactive vaccines safe for blood cancer patients:
Live vaccines unsafe for blood cancer patients:
There are a number of vaccines that, as a blood cancer patient, you are recommended to have to protect you from infection and other illnesses at a time when your immune system may be low.
The seasonal flu vaccine is recommended to be administered every year. If you are being treated for leukaemia and aren’t already doing this, you can have the vaccine administered by your GP, however you should get in touch with your medical team to discuss at what stage of your treatment cycle would be best for you to have this vaccination.
If you have been diagnosed with a leukaemia, it is recommended that you get the pneumococcal vaccine once every five years. This vaccine can reduce the likelihood of more serious infections for example pneumonia, meningitis and septicaemia which could cause serious harm if caught with a lowered immune system.
There are two pneumococcal vaccinations, PCV13 (pneumococcal conjugate vaccine 13) and PPV23 (pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine 23). It is recommended that you have both of these vaccines for higher protection, but a single standard vaccine can provide you with sufficient protection.
Following high-dose chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant, you may no longer be immune to diseases you may have been vaccinated against previously and therefore you may need to receive these vaccines again.
It’s important that you seek advice of your medical team as to which vaccines you will need to receive again as each hospital has their own guidelines and recommendations.
It is not recommended to travel abroad whilst on a course of treatment, however if you have finished treatment or are in remission you may be thinking about travelling abroad. If you are thinking of travelling to certain countries, there is a possibility that you may need to be vaccinated against certain diseases in the country you are planning on travelling to.
Some vaccines for diseases will be in the form of live vaccines and should be avoided. If there is any doubt, you should consult your haematologist or consultant before deciding on your holiday location. You should also ensure you speak to your medical team at least six weeks before you travel to discuss the implications of having a particular vaccine and to plan the best time to have it during your treatment plan.
Published: Feb 2016
Next planned review: Feb 2018