If you have had a bone marrow transplant you probably know all about the extra precautions you need to take to avoid infection in the months before and after your transplant. As the flu season is upon us we talk about vaccinations after stem cell transplantation and why you need to be careful.
Why are Vaccinations after Stem Cell Transplantation so Important?
When you have a stem cell transplant all of your existing immunity is wiped out and your new, donated bone marrow or stem cells need to engraft so that they can go on to produce healthy transplants, any immunity to viruses acquired before the procedure is usually lost.
We all produce antibodies against diseases that can be prevented by vaccination. Vaccinations simply increase the levels of these antibodies, making us much less likely to develop diseases. Studies show that the immune system continues to be compromised for the first few years after a successful bone marrow transplant and that levels of antibodies continue to decrease.
Until a patient’s new immune system is fully developed, they will be at a greater risk of picking up an infection. Vaccinations can help protect the patient from a range of infections that they would otherwise have developed an immunity to or been vaccinated against in childhood. This includes childhood diseases, pneumococcal pneumonia and influenza (flu).
Each patient is different and will recover at different rates. As a general rule, post-transplant vaccinations that use non-live viruses will be recommended about a year after transplant. Diphtheria, tetanus, haemophilus influenza type B, polio, streptococcus pneumonia and influenza (administered annually) are all safe after a bone marrow transplant. Your healthcare provider may recommend other vaccinations too. However, live virus vaccinations, such as the smallpox vaccine, measles, mumps and rubella should not be given until at least two years after the transplant, and at least a year after immune-suppressive therapy has stopped.
What About Friends And Family?
If you or someone you love has had a bone marrow or stem cell transplant, it is a good idea to make sure that all the people around you are up to date on their vaccinations. By making sure they are vaccinated they can help to protect the transplant patient from contracting infections, even if they can’t be vaccinated themselves.
If someone close has had a live vaccination it may be a good idea to take precautions. If a family member has had a live vaccination, a transplant patient on immunosuppressive drugs or within a year of transplant can catch the virus from the vaccinated person up to four months after the vaccine has been administered.
Best Practice Prevents Infection
At Bone Marrow Transplant Mexico we go to great lengths to protect our patients and their families in order to help prevent infection and to ensure a full recovery. Dr. Ovilla has many years’ experience in hematology and treating bone marrow disorders, including blood cancer, leukemia and inherited conditions such as sickle cell anemia. Using Dr. Ovilla’s extensive experience in administering successful bone marrow transplantations to patients and international best practice procedures, we have developed a safe, quality bone marrow program that optimizes each patient’s success rates while reducing the risk of complications as much as possible.
If you or someone you love has cancer, such as lymphoma, leukemia, a solid cancer like breast cancer, or any other blood dysfunction disorder, contact us today to find out if a bone marrow transplant could save their life.