I have cancer should I have the swine flu vaccine?

syringe-WEBIf you are having treatment for cancer should you have the H1N1 (swine) flu vaccine?  Short answer. Discuss it with your GP or your consultant.

Long answer, it depends what sort of treatment you are having and what stage your treatment is at. Treatments like chemotherapy and radiotherapy can lower your immune system which means you are more likely to get an infection (like flu) because your body can’t “fight it off”.  In general people with cancer can get the normal flu vaccine, see “Should I have the flu vaccine” on Cancer Research UK or “Is it still safe for me to have the flu jab” on Macmillan.

What about swine flu? There is less information on this.  Of course the normal precautions, such as washing your hands still apply. See “I‘m worried about the risk of swine flu” on the Macmillan website for more information. Cancer patients will be some of the first people to get the swine flu vaccination, see NHS choices “Who will be a priority?” for more information on who will be vaccinated. Household contacts of people with a reduced immune system (which includes people with cancer) will also be a priority for vaccine, there are thought to be about 0.5 million people in this category, in England, there are more figures on the Directgov swine flu “News Room“. NHS Choices also have some information on the latest research into “Swine flu and immunosupression“, which includes information on timing the vaccine between chemotherapy cycles.

There is a regularly updated “Swine flu” section on the NHS choices website, that also has information on antivirals like tamiflu.

Does everybody believe the swine flu vaccine is a good idea?  No.

“On the facts available to date, I will not be having it. Nor will my family. I will not be the only doctor taking this view” Dr Crippen – The Guardian.

There are a lot of emails doing the rounds that say the swine flu vaccine is dangerous and not properly tested. In 1976, 22% of the American population were given a flu vaccine (48, 000,000 people) about 500 people who had the vaccine developed a rare neurological disease called Guillian- Barre, 25 of those people died. There is a lot more information on “Swine Flu Vaccine Fear mongering” at science based medicine which is well worth a read. It goes into a lot of details about the myths and evidence for the swine flu vaccine.

What do I think? There is no easy answer to this one. Flu can be deadly. Speak to your GP or your counsultant (or both!) and see what they think is right for you.

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4 comments to I have cancer should I have the swine flu vaccine?

  • GG

    I am a worker in an area where if swine flu is admitted to the hospital it will all come to our unit .i have done the reading and have decided not to vaccinate my chilren but should I be vaccinated Confused .. confused

  • Avril

    Maybe wait and see if you are offered it and then decide? No one can force you to have it, but on the whole vaccines are safe and help protect you and others. Of course, I’m a scientist and not a doctor. You could always ask your GP and ask if they are planning on getting it ?

  • 2 of my cousins in mexico got infected with the swine flu virus. thank God, they recovered well. it is a great news that the pandemic on swine flu is gone now.

  • Just saw this blog article. Wonderful post my friend! Check ya later

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