Vaccines and chemo can mix — on a case by case basis

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December 12, 2019 - 10:11 AM

Dear Dr. Roach: My sister is getting chemo for breast cancer, and her 4-year-old is due for his shots. She’s worried that he won’t be able to get them all because of her treatment. Our parents are unsure if they should go ahead and get the shingles vaccine since they are around her often. What are the guidelines on shots for close contacts of cancer patients? — K.C.T.

Answer: It’s much more dangerous for your sister to be exposed to a person with disease than a person who’s recently been vaccinated, since the likelihood of a vaccine shedding from a vaccinated person to a person with cancer is very small. In general, your sister’s child should get his scheduled vaccines.

Inactivated vaccines such as the flu shot, pneumonia vaccine and meningitis vaccines are always safe to use for caregivers of cancer patients, or those with immune system disease of other kinds. Live vaccines need to be looked at individually.

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