What Vaccinations Do You Need?

A Guide for Adults with Chronic Kidney Disease or Kidney Failure Living on Dialysis or with a Kidney Transplant

Why do I need a vaccination?

Vaccinations, usually given as a shot, protect you from serious diseases. Some common diseases you may already know about are the common flu, diphtheria, tetanus, hepatitis B and pneumococcal disease. Some of these diseases can make you very ill, and may have no cure. You may even risk dying from certain diseases if you have not received a vaccination for them.

Vaccinations not only protect you from diseases, they protect others around you. The elderly, people with chronic illness or children in your household could become seriously ill if they are exposed to certain diseases.

How do vaccines work?

Vaccines usually contain parts of the dead or weakened bacteria or virus. Once you have received the vaccine, your body begins to produce antibodies to protect you as though you had actually been exposed to the disease. Should you actually come in contact with the disease, your body will begin fighting it off again, but you will not become ill. Some vaccines, like tetanus, require a booster to remind your body how to fight off the bacteria again.

What vaccinations do I need?

Your doctor is the best person to ask about which vaccinations you should receive. Because you have kidney disease, you may be at greater risk for contracting certain illnesses or you may need a different form of vaccine. Certain vaccines should not be given to adults with a kidney transplant or suppressed immune systems.

How often do I need a vaccination?

Depending on the vaccine, you may need only one shot to protect you for life. Other vaccines may require booster shots or a series of shots. Some vaccines are needed only if you travel to a place where you are likely to contract a disease that is common to that area. (See chart below for a list of vaccinations commonly recommended for adults with kidney disease.)

Where do I get my vaccinations?

You should first talk with your doctor to find out which vaccines you need. They can be given by your doctor or through your public health department or a pharmacy. Local health agencies and hospitals often conduct clinics during the year to provide vaccinations.

What do these shots cost?

The cost of these vaccines vary and may be covered by your insurance. Local health departments may provide them free of charge or at a reduced cost. Remember, flu, pneumococcal and hepatitis B vaccines are paid for by Medicare Part B. Shingles and Tdap vaccines are covered if you've elected to have Medicare Part D benefits.

Are vaccines safe?

Vaccines are among the safest medications available. Some common side effects are a sore arm or low-grade fever. As with any medication, there is a very small risk that serious problems could occur after a vaccination. However, the risks from the disease are much greater than the risks from the vaccines.

What if I have more questions?

If you have additional questions about vaccinations, speak to your doctor and health care team. You may also be interested in reading What You Should Know About Infectious Diseases: A Guide for Patients and Their Families, available by contacting your local National Kidney Foundation Affiliate or by calling the national toll-free number: 800-622-9010.

Vaccinations Recommended for Adults With Kidney Disease or a Kidney Transplant
Vaccines Post-Transplant Kidney Disease
Influenza (flu) Recommended, 1 dose annually Recommended, 1 dose annually
Tetanus, Diphtheria-acellular Pertussis (whooping cough) Recommended 1-time dose of Tdap, then Td booster every 10 years Recommended 1-time dose of Tdap, then Td booster every 10 years
Hepatitis B Recommended, 3 doses Recommended, 3 doses
Herpes Zoster (shingles) DO NOT USE Recommended (age 60 and older), 1 dose only
Persons on immunosuppressive therapy should not receive the shingles vaccine
Pneumococcal (pneumonia) Recommended, ask your healthcare provider about the timing and spacing Recommended, ask your healthcare provider about the timing and spacing
Meningococcus (meningitis) Use if needed*, 1 or more doses Use if needed*, 1 or more doses
HPV Recommended (females up to age 26, males up to age 21), 3 doses Recommended (females up to age 26, males up to age 21), 3 doses

*Recommended if some other risk factor is present; for example, on the basis of medical, job-related, lifestyle, or other reasons.