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Should I Get A Flu Vaccination, Even Though I'm Taking Immunosuppressants?


Updated August 29, 2012

Influenza Vaccine

The influenza vaccine will give you the best chance at avoiding the flu.

Photo © Jim Gathany
Question: Should I Get A Flu Vaccination, Even Though I'm Taking Immunosuppressants?

People with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) who are taking immunosuppressive drugs fall into a high-risk group for complications from the flu. Some immunosuppressive drugs include:

For people taking these or other drugs that suppress the immune system, late October to mid November is the optimum time to get this vaccine. The flu shot takes one to two weeks to reach effectiveness.

People taking immunosuppressive drugs should get the flu shot, not the nasal-spray flu vaccine (also called LAIV, which stands for Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine). LAIV, which contains live, weakened flu viruses, is not recommended for anyone who has a chronic disease, including IBD. LAIV should also not be taken by anyone taking medications that can weaken the immune system such as the IBD drugs mentioned above.

The inactivated flu shot contains dead viruses, and will not give the recipient the flu.


Melmed GY, Ippoliti AF, Papadakis KA, Tran TT, Birt JL, Lee SK, Frenck RW, Targan SR, Vasiliauskas EA. Patients with inflammatory bowel disease are at risk for vaccine-preventable illnesses. Am J Gastroenterol Aug 2006. 08 Oct 2007.

Sands BE, Cuffari C, Katz J, Kugathasan S, Onken J, Vitek C, Orenstein W. Guidelines for immunizations in patients with inflammatory bowel disease. Inflamm Bowel Dis Sep 2004. 08 Oct 2007.

Alsahli M, Farrell RJ. Opportunistic Infections in Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America 14 Oct 2005.

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  3. Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
  4. Treatments For IBD
  5. IBD - Drugs
  6. Immunosuppressants
  7. Getting A Flu Shot While Taking Immune-Suppressing Drugs

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