When can a person on rituximab receive the flu shot?

Question:
When can a person on rituximab receive the flu shot?

Answer:
Let me first speak about our biologic treatments for autoimmune conditions in general, where it is fine to get the flu shot as it is not a ‘live’ vaccine and we do not need to interrupt the biologic treatment. If we could pick an ideal time when a person might get a little bit more immune response, it would be 2 weeks before the next biologic dose, as vaccines take 2 weeks to process and this is when the biologic is at its lowest level.

However, people waiting for a ‘perfect’ time often miss the window and never get the vaccine.  So we don’t want to make a person feel a specific time is necessary.

For rituximab, it is a different story.  As B cells are depleted by this treatment, which we need to make antibodies when receiving a vaccine, there will be almost no benefit to getting any vaccine for about 5 – 5 ½ months after a rituximab dose.  It will do a person no harm to receive the vaccine, it just won’t have the benefit. So once the flu shot is available, receiving it  2 weeks prior to the next rituximab dose would be highly suggested.  If you have missed this opportunity, then the best thing a person can do is to ensure all those in close contact with them are vaccinated. We expect the flu vaccine to be available within the first two weeks of October.

Important Update to our Blog…

We have very much enjoyed bringing you this weekly blog for the past few years. As of this month, we will be publishing blogs on a bi-weekly basis. However, if there is critical information that needs to be shared, we will post more often. We also bring you content over on our Facebook and Twitter pages, so you can always tune in there if you miss having us in your inbox as frequently!

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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