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
  • RSV (respiratory syncytial virus)
  • Flu
  • Pneumonia
  • 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. Children ages 6 months to 8 years may need two flu vaccines each year to fully protect them from the flu.5

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.

That’s because the virus in the flu shot is dead (inactivated). The reason that people with CF should not receive the nasal spray form of the flu vaccine is that the virus is weakened (attenuated) in the spray form.

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. It is still important to alert the health care professional providing your vaccine of your specific egg allergy. 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 seasonal vaccines each year to reduce their chances of getting diseases with respiratory complications such as whooping cough (pertussis), flu, pneumonia, and varicella (called shingles in adulthood).

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 hepatitis. 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: November 2020