Last year's flu season was complicated. The H1N1 virus -- the swine
flu -- came on quickly and unexpectedly, leading to demand for
a new vaccine to supplement the usual seasonal flu shot. Because
people with cancer already have weakened immune systems,
we field a lot of questions about whether our patients and their
families should get vaccinated. Read on to get the answers.
Q: I'm on chemotherapy. Should I get a flu vaccine?
A: Yes, but it's important to get the right one. All Cancer Center
patients should receive a flu shot containing an inactivated influenza
vaccine. People with cancer should not take the nasal vaccine
FluMist because it is made with a live, weakened flu virus.
Q: Which vaccine should my family members receive?
A: In many cases, we recommend flu shots containing the inactivated
virus for those who have close contact with our patients.
This is because there is a small risk that people with weakened
immune systems can catch the flu from someone who received
the nasal vaccine, which contains a live form of the virus.
Q: I haven't heard anything about the H1N1 vaccine this year.
Should I receive it?
A: The H1N1 strain is included in this year's standard flu shot.
No separate vaccine is needed.