What Vaccinations Should a Person with Cystic Fibrosis Get?

Vaccinations, also known as immunizations or shots, play a key role in helping a person with CF stay healthy. That’s because those with CF may be more at risk to get vaccine-controlled diseases at any age.1-3

Vaccines help prevent a host of health problems before they get a chance to take hold. That’s why everyone with CF, and those closest to them, should get all of the immunizations their doctor recommends, including an annual flu shot.1,2

Routine childhood vaccines

Children with CF, like all children, should receive these immunizations on the recommended schedule:

  • MMR (measles, mumps, rubella)
  • DTap (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis)
  • Polio
  • Hepatitis A & B
  • Rotavirus
  • Flu
  • Pneumonia - Give children with cystic fibrosis the first dose of pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23 or Pneumovax 23) at least eight weeks after their last dose of pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13 or Prevnar 13). This will typically occur between ages 2 and 5 years old.
  • Varicella (chicken pox)
  • Meningococcal
  • HPV (human papilloma virus for tweens to young adults)4

Household members, relatives, and friends who will be in close contact with someone with CF should also stay up-to-date on their immunizations to reduce the chance of exposing their friend or loved one who has CF to a vaccine-preventable disease.

Getting an annual flu vaccination is especially important for people with CF and those around them since the CF population is at an extremely high risk of dying from the flu.5

Per CDC guidelines, use any influenza vaccine appropriate for age and health status annually:5

  • 2 doses, separated by at least 4 weeks, for children age 6 months to 8 years who have received fewer than 2 influenza vaccine doses before July 1, 2020, or whose influenza vaccination history is unknown (administer dose 2 even if the child turns 9 between receipt of dose 1 and dose 2).
  • 1 dose for children age 6 months to 8 years who have received at least 2 influenza vaccine doses before July 1, 2020.

Special considerations for the flu vaccine

Contrary to popular belief, the flu vaccine does not give you the flu. The flu vaccine can be given as a shot or a nasal spray. People with CF should not get the nasal spray vaccine.

Patients with CF can get other live vaccines but the nasal form of the flu vaccine is typically not recommended. This is partially because it’s a live weakened virus, which is then coupled with their high risk of complications of the flu and the location the vaccine is administered.

In the past, people who were allergic to eggs were told to avoid the flu vaccine. Now, the CDC now recommends that people with egg allergies can safely receive the flu shot or nasal vaccine anywhere that is licensed to give immunizations if they had no reaction or only hives in reaction to a flu vaccine. There are also egg-free versions of the vaccine now. It is still important to alert the health care professional providing your vaccine for your specific egg allergy, just in case. Anyone with previous severe reactions to a flu shot or nasal spray should get their flu vaccine in a doctor’s office, hospital, or clinic.6

Vaccines for adults with CF

Adults with CF should follow the Center for Disease Control’s recommended schedule for vaccinations. Adults often need booster shots throughout their lives to keep their immunizations effective. Tetanus is a good example of this. Adults should also get a flu vaccine each year. Also, patients with CF should stay up to date on their pneumococcal vaccinations.

International travel

If you are traveling outside the U.S., it is important to find out if you will need any additional immunizations. The Centers for Disease Control offer an easy-to-use online tool to check which vaccines are needed to enter and travel safely in any country in the world. Give yourself plenty of time to get the vaccines you need. Your CF care center may not stock all the vaccines you will need. You may need to go to a travel clinic to get a yellow fever shot, for example. Also, some shots must be given in a series of days or weeks.2

Additional tips for children and adults with CF

Some additional suggestions for children and adults with CF:

  • Free or lower-cost vaccinations are often available if cost is an issue.
  • People with CF who have had a liver or lung transplant may not be able to receive certain vaccines, such as live vaccines that suppress the immune system. Talk to your CF care team about vaccination options.1
  • Reduce your chances of getting the flu by practicing good infection prevention and control techniques such as washing your hands frequently and staying at least 6 feet from anyone who has a cold, the flu, or other infection.

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Written by: Jessica Johns Pool | Last reviewed: May 2021