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Do Flu Shots Work After a Kidney Transplant?

It is possible that the flu shot might not work as well in people with a kidney transplant, since they have a less active immune system from their anti-rejection medicines. However, a flu shot is still recommended for people with a kidney transplant.

Flu shots offer the best chance for protection from the flu for kidney patients

People with a kidney transplant need to take certain medicines to prevent rejection of the transplanted kidney (called anti-rejection or immunosuppressants) by making T the immune system less active. The immune system fights off anything in your body that it does not recognize, so these medicines stop this system from attacking the “foreign” transplanted kidney. How well a flu shot works in a person with a kidney transplant can depend on a few things, such as a person’s overall health, types of medicines, and strength of their immune system. Therefore, with a weaker immune system, a person with a kidney transplant may not develop a strong anti-flu immune response from the vaccine.

However, people with a kidney transplant have a higher chance of getting the flu and the infection can be dangerous. The flu shot is recommended because it can lower the chance of getting the flu, even if less effective. If you do get infected, the strength of the infection and its related problems might not be as serious. 

Get it yearly

After a kidney transplant, a yearly inactivated flu shot is generally recommended in all transplant recipients. Overall, the flu shot is considered safe and there is no evidence that the flu shot causes rejection of the transplanted kidney.

Don't go for the nasal mist

There are a few things to keep in mind. People with a kidney transplant should not get certain vaccines, including a type of flu shot called live (or attenuated) that usually comes in the form of a nasal mist. Also, people with a recent transplant (within the first 6 months) should check with their healthcare team to make sure they can get a flu shot during that time.

Despite these considerations, getting a flu shot is still recommended for most people with a kidney transplant. There are also other ways to help prevent the flu, such as making sure others in your home get a flu shot, washing hands as often as possible, and not touching the face and eyes, especially after being in a crowded place.

If you have additional questions about the flu shot, or other vaccines, you can talk to your healthcare provider or contact the National Kidney Foundation at 855.NKF.CARES (855.653.2273)

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