To Swine Flu Jab (or not to) when on Chemo/Radiotherapy ?

Hello All

Found myself with a bit of a dilemma this week.

I had the 1st dose of swine flu vaccination 9 days before my 1st cycle of FEC on the 17th December 09. When I was first recommended for chemo 2 weeks this, the Chemo Nurse Specialist and Oncologist basically sat on the fence about whether it was appropriate for me to have the swine flu vaccination - they encouraged my husband to get it done but were abit reluctant in encouraging me (despite the immunosuppressant issue being on chemo gives us) so I contacted my GP who was vehemently emphatic I should have it - hence i did, with a 4 week appointment (for today) to return for 2nd dose of swine flu.

On Monday I saw my Oncologist for pre-chemo check and I mentioned to him that I was due to have 2nd dose of swine flu today (2 days before next chemo) and I asked if it would be okay. Again he would not comment, so I called chemo nurse specialist who informed me they would rather ‘sit on the fence’ as in their opinion there has not been enough research to support having the swine flu jab whilst undergoing chemo and they were not convinced it was worthwhile, but again she was emphatic that my husband should get it done!!. I was stunned and left somewhat baffled. Should I have 2nd dose of swine flu?.

Today I went with husband and our Practice Nurse gave me the following information issued by the Oncology & Haematology Directorate at Norfolk and Norwich NHS Trust, for me to give to my Chemo Dept at another Trust.

Question: Should people who are having chemotherapy or radiotherapy have the swine flu jab?

Answer: Yes the swine flu vaccine is recommended for people who are having chemotherapy or radiotherapy. Patients having chemotherapy are at a much greater risk of getting infections due to their low immune system. it is also recommended that people who are living with someone with a low immune system should also be vaccinated against swine flu.

Question: When should the swine flu be given to people having chemotherapy?

Answer: > Patients receiving chemotherapy may be offered 2 injections (at least 3 weeks apart). The 1st injection must be given at least 3-4 weeks prior to commencing chemotherapy. The 2nd injection no later than 2 days prior to commencing chemotherapy and no later than 5 days after chemotherapy.

> It is safe to have the swine flu vaccination between chemotherapy treatments, however it is important to not havbe the swine flu vaccination when the immune system is at its lowest. The best time is 2 days prior to chemotherapy and no later than 5 days after chemotherapy.

Based on the above I’ve had the 2nd dose (in my butt where I had the 1st dose so as to save my veins in my arm). I never had any side effects the first time and as swine flu is not a ‘live’ vaccine and therefore does not contain any live virus, the timing is perfect so hopefully all will be okay again even with chemo pending. I’m just baffled that my Oncology unit are so non commital - can’t help but ponder if its a professional or in fact personal opinion influencing - my Practice Nurse flet it was more likely to be the latter which is not helpful for people in our situation.

I hope the above helps anyone having to make this decision.

Best wishes Leigh xx

My onc was very vague on the subject too.

I had my first swine flu jab 4 days before my 1st chemo and the second one 3 weeks later on the advice of the nurse practitioner at my GP’s surgery. My onc was keen for me to have the first dose but unsure if I needed the second!

I looked into it and found conflicting advice but the debate seemed mainly to centre around whether the vaccine would be effective rather than whether it was harmful in any way. That being the case I decided to go ahead with both doses on the basis that it might not give me immunity but if I didn’t have it there was even more chance of not being immune. My hubby, kids and parents have all had the vaccine to minimise the risk of my being exposed to the virus so all I can do now is cross my fingers and hope for the best.