Vaccinations and Cancer Treatment
Brooke Cherven, RN, MPH, Karen Effinger, MD, Lillian Meacham, MD
Most children and teens with cancer will have their routine vaccines delayed while they are going through treatment. Patients receiving chemotherapy or radiation have weakened immune systems, meaning the vaccines may not work as well, and some vaccines are dangerous for people with weakened immune systems. Children and teens should wait until after completing treatment and receiving permission from their oncologist to receive most vaccines.
However, all patients should get a yearly flu vaccine while going through treatment and after treatment. The flu is dangerous in patients with weakened immune systems. Receiving the flu vaccine and making sure family members do as well can help prevent flu in cancer patients and cancer survivors. Be sure to ask your oncologist which type of flu vaccine is appropriate for the patient and family. Most guidelines strongly recommend the shot containing dead virus and not the spray which contains live virus due to the patient’s weakened immune system.
Most patients should begin to receive their routine vaccines around 3-6 months after completing treatment. If you missed some vaccines, you can follow a catch-up schedule to get back on track. Patients who have had a bone marrow transplant will have a different schedule for vaccines which they will get from the bone marrow transplant team. All patients should talk with their oncologist before receiving any vaccinations.
The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is highly recommended for cancer survivors who are 9-26 years old. HPV is a sexually transmitted infection, and most people in the United States will become infected at some point in their lifetime. Some types of HPV can lead to the development of future cancers. HPV is associated with almost all cervical cancers and the majority of anal, genital, oral and throat cancers. Getting the HPV vaccine is a way for cancer survivors to protect themselves against future cancers.
For more information about vaccines during and after cancer treatment:
- Catch up immunization schedule for children and adolescents or adults:
- Learn more about the HPV vaccine