Do vaccines cause flares?

Lupus Foundation of America

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Research has shown that generally, inactivated (“dead“) or recombinant vaccines like the flu, pneumonia and tetanus shots do not increase lupus disease activity. However, there have been cases where people with lupus have experienced a flare after a vaccination. It's important to speak with your rheumatologist before receiving vaccinations of any type. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all people who are prone to infection and those on immunosuppressant medication receive the inactivated flu (the flu shot, not the nasal spray), pneumococcal (pneumonia) and tetanus vaccines.

Caution should be observed, and risks and benefits should be carefully weighed, with “live” vaccines that suppress the immune system. Live vaccines contain a weakened form of a live virus. Children with lupus should not receive any vaccine that contains “live” virus. This is because even a small amount of a virus can cause lupus to become active.

In adults, if the immune system is weak due to medications that suppress the immune system, live vaccines might cause symptoms of active infection. Examples of live vaccines include the nasal spray vaccine for the flu, the yellow fever vaccine, chicken pox and shingles vaccines, and the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine. It’s a good idea to talk to your rheumatologist about any vaccines you may need, as well as the risks and benefits of each.

For the most current vaccination recommendations for children with immune system complications such as lupus, go to the Vaccines section of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website or call toll-free 800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636). 

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