Can I get my flu shot when I just had a Rituxan Infusion?

Every day we get questions in our infusion clinics. Today’s blog features one of those questions…

Rituximab (Rituxan) is a biologic therapy that depletes a specific type of B cell in the immune system. This B cell is responsible for generating antibodies that will promote long term protection against the virus or bacteria the person is being vaccinated for. When available, any needed vaccines should be given two weeks before receiving rituximab as this is the time needed for a vaccine to be effective. Alternatively, you must wait until 5-6 months after the dose for vaccination, as it can take this long for a person to replace their B cells after a Rituxan infusion.

If you are just getting an infusion now and the flu vaccine for this season is not yet available, then you will need to wait until the New Year (5-6 months from now). This will leave you more vulnerable to the flu until that time. Therefore, ensuring your family members and close contacts receive their flu vaccine is very important. Hand washing is one of our best protections from the spread of infection.

Carolyn Whiskin is the Pharmacy Manager for Charlton Health.  Carolyn specializes in the treatment of autoimmune diseases, pharmaceutical compounding, women’s health, pain and smoking cessation. Carolyn has won provincial and national awards for her commitment to patient care and public service.

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