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Flu Shot - do you get it?

Flu Shot - do you get it?

Posted by Aries on Nov 7, 2019 8:32 pm

Hi all,

Do you get the flu shot?
If you do, do you get it because you have cancer or because you always got it pre-cancer?
Would you get it if you know your immune system is strong and not compromised?

I ask these questions because I have never gotten the fly shot; the last time I had the flu (fever and bed ridden) was about 14 years ago. Since then I get a cold here and there but not much more than that. My Oncologist recommends that I get the flu shot because they tell all patients too get this due to compromised immune systems. I mentioned that nearly everyone I know who has had the flu shot has gotten the flu (a different strain that they are not treated for). She agreed that often the flu shot is just 3 strains on flu they think will dominate in a season and that there are hundreds of strains and that's often why people end up still getting the flu.
Since my treatment started over 6 months ago, my immune system has remained strong and stable - none of my blood counts have dipped below the "range" . I have fought off a cold within days (compared to my healthy spouse who had his cold for a couple of weeks) and so am, as you can imagine, reluctant to get injected with a virus that may make me sick and may then compromise my immune system as it works to fight it off.

I would appreciate your thoughts on this.


Fiona (Aries)


Re: Flu Shot - do you get it?

Posted by Brighty on Nov 7, 2019 8:41 pm

Aries‍  I don't get my flu shot either.   The doc says I should because I work with kids.    But I'm ashamed  to admit I am petrified  of needles!!!!!!!! And like you said  there are so many different  strains of the flu that the flu shot will not protect against all of them.     

Re: Flu Shot - do you get it?

Posted by Aries on Nov 7, 2019 8:53 pm

Brighty‍ - I totally get it - for the past months I lied down for blood work - I graduated to the chair just last month! LOL I cannot look at the needles though and tell them to not tell me what they are doing! 

As for my immune system, I think taking Vitamin D3 has boosted my immune system this whole time and helped me through treatment.

Re: Flu Shot - do you get it?

Posted by Elizabeth06 on Nov 7, 2019 9:04 pm

I get the flu shot.  I have been getting it for as long as I can remember, either standing in line at a clinic or going to my family doctor.
i worked with the public, before I retired and not only was I protecting myself, but those I worked with and those we served, and my family.
i have never had any adverse reaction to the flu shot or developed the flu after receiving the shot.  I have been told that the flu would not be as severe, if indeed you did contract it after having the shot.
why would you not take every step possible to protect yourself and your loved ones?  There is always risk, but, you can mitigate that abit, by stepping up.


Re: Flu Shot - do you get it?

Posted by Elsie13 on Nov 7, 2019 9:09 pm

I've been getting the flu shot every year for the past three years. Hubby and I are thinking of going tomorrow morning to get our shots, but I have a sore throat and a cough, so should I wait another week or so before going for my shot? 

Re: Flu Shot - do you get it?

Posted by Aries on Nov 7, 2019 9:14 pm

A friend told me that I should request the "Thimerosal Free" flu vaccine. Does anyone know about this?

Elsie13‍ - sorry I can't say whether you should wait or not to be well before getting the shot. Maybe check with your pharmacist? I would think they would be able to advise you.

Re: Flu Shot - do you get it?

Posted by Essjay on Nov 8, 2019 7:55 am

Aries‍ I have had a flu shot annually since 2014 when my husband and I had H1N1. We were camping in the backwoods one January when one of the party fell ill, then my husband fell ill. Two of us had to get them plus all the winter camping stuff out of the backwoods by sled (double hauling and making double trips), drive them home, get everything unpacked etc before we got sick. I was sick for 2 weeks in my bed, and then took 3 months to fully recover. Since then, I get the shot. Last winter when I was going through treatment, my husband got the shot too to support me, and we've both had the shot this year. An acquaintance died last year from complications of the flu - he had cystic fybrosis and had received a lung transplant, but didn't survive the flu.

Sure, it doesn't always work because they are guessing which viruses will be circulating, but most years it's pretty effective.

I can't help with the needle fear - you get the shot in the shoulder so you can't see the needle.

I know it's tempting to say we'll everyone I know has had the shot, but what about when you go to the pharmacy to pick-up your medication, or as you walk through the hospital, or what if you stand in line in the grocery store...

Re: Flu Shot - do you get it?

Posted by Runner Girl on Nov 8, 2019 9:29 am

I have been getting the flu shot every year since 2003.

Prior to that I was always prone to pick it up.  Usually it would land in my throat and ears, a weak point.  The last year that I had it I was shocked to learn that the older lady I worked with (and adored) was allergic to eggs and could therefore not get the flu shot.  I was mortified that I could have given it to her and it could have been deadly for her because of her advanced age (65).  From that point on I've gotten the shot every year as soon as it is available.  I'd rather not be responsible for causing injury to another person by infecting them should I catch the flu.

It's my personal opinion that because I've had chemo my immune system may now not be what it used to be.  I used to get the flu alot when I thought I was healthy, I can't imagine how it might affect me now.  No interest in going down that road, figure better safe than sorry.

Runner Girl

Re: Flu Shot - do you get it?

Posted by Wendy Tea on Nov 8, 2019 9:47 am

Aries‍ , when I worked from home and made trips to the big city in December,  two years in a row I was hit by H1N1. I think it was from being exposed to so many people after living in a bubble. The flu took me out for several weeks, hung on for 3 months, then flared back up again. Because it was so debilitating I have been getting the flu shot for 8 years, and no I dont look and if you dont look, it doesn't hurt. I have never gotten sick from a flu shot.
My oncologist said it wasn't urgent to get a flu shot, but I know my body and I dont ever want to be that ill again.
You will need to do what is best for you because you know your body but please take the oncologists suggestion to heart. Think carefully. 
Stay safe.
Wendy Tea 

Re: Flu Shot - do you get it?

Posted by Lacey_adminCCS on Nov 8, 2019 10:58 am


Great topic! 

This is definitely a personal decision and you should consult your Doc. But I thought you might find this info helpful:

Flu vaccine

The flu shot, or influenza vaccine, and the pneumonia vaccine (Pneumovax) are not live vaccines. People with cancer, their immediate family and household members can usually have these vaccines.

The pneumococcal vaccine is given to prevent pneumonia in people with lymphoma, multiple myeloma, chronic lymphocytic leukemia and some other cancers. This vaccine is given when you are first diagnosed and then usually every 5 years.

In Canada, the influenza vaccine is usually offered in the fall each year. There are 2 main forms of the flu vaccines. Live vaccines are given as a nasal spray. Inactivated vaccines are made from a dead virus. They are given as shots or injections.

People with cancer who are immunosuppressed need to be careful about the type of flu vaccine they get. It is safe for people with cancer to get the injected vaccine because it uses a dead virus. They shouldn’t get the nasal spray because it is made from a live vaccine. Even a very weak live virus can cause a serious illness in immunosuppressed people. Family and household members can safely get the nasal spray unless the person with cancer is severely immunosuppressed after a stem cell or bone marrow transplant.

If you are currently receiving chemotherapy, the best time to get the flu vaccine is 48 hours before or after treatment. This is when your blood counts are still near the normal range. People with cancer should not receive the flu vaccine if they are allergic to any of the vaccine components or if they have a platelet count below 20,000.

Talk to your doctor or healthcare team before getting the flu vaccine.

Read more: http://www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/diagnosis-and-treatment/tests-and-procedures/immunizations/?region=on#ixzz64hbNSzLO

Wishing you continues health! 


Re: Flu Shot - do you get it?

Posted by Aries on Nov 8, 2019 2:27 pm

Lacey_adminCCS‍ - thanks so much for this information. That's really informative and I didn't know that we had to wait 48 hrs before or after treatment to get it so that's good to know.

I am so on the fence about this - I appreciate everyone's feedback and opinions and given some of you tend to be prone to get the flu I understand your decision on getting it. I suppose I am worried that as my immune system is normal right now and has remained so and stable through 7 months of treatment, the the flu shot will kick my system into another gear and then will compromise things. I don't know ... I guess I will get it and hope for the best but am going to read through all the info Lacey provided and will ask the pharmacist about it beforehand.
I do believe in vaccines - like the measles - I am just not convinced that the flu vaccine is that effective given how many strains are out there.

Thanks all!

Re: Flu Shot - do you get it?

Posted by Jackwb on Nov 8, 2019 3:03 pm

Every year since I retired 14 years ago. I do this for several reasons, the main one being that I'm a snowbird and because the flu is huge in the U.S.. Every year the number of hospitalizations and deaths keeps growing, probably because many Americans don't get vaccinated, don't wash their hands, and keep close to people. Another reason is that with the minimum wage so low in places ($7.25/hour) people in grocery stores, hospitality and other service industries go to work when they're sick (no sick pay unless you're unionized, most aren't) and touch stuff that you touch. A few years ago I got really sick after people coughed all over me in the Walmart.

If I needed to be hospitalized down there because of the flu I'm not sure that my insurance would cover it because of other preexisting conditions and I really don't want to find out. Better to stay safe.

Re: Flu Shot - do you get it?

Posted by WestCoastSailor on Nov 8, 2019 4:41 pm

I'm still waiting for an answer from my oncologist on afatinib. I can tell you that last year when I was on druvalamab, we couldn't get an answer from AstraZeneca or the pharmacist. Immunotherapy is a wee bit different from chemo in its effects on the immune system.

The pnuemococcal vaccinations are another huge question mark for lung cancer patients and there don't seem to be clear answers there either.


Re: Flu Shot - do you get it?

Posted by Chichimus on Nov 9, 2019 2:08 pm

I have been getting the flu shot annually for years except for last year when my treatment ruled it out. Got it as soon as I could.
Some years it is a miss as they have to take their best guess as to what new strain will come along. However, I have had a few flu seasons where they got it bang on and I sailed through with nary a sniffle while legions sneezed and wheezed around me.
And no it does not give you the flu. People do get colds or respiratory tract infections and can't tell the difference so "OMG! The flu shot got me sick".
I would get it. If not for yourself then for the others with weakened immune systems you will be encountering in hospital or where you go for treatment.

Re: Flu Shot - do you get it?

Posted by Elsie13 on Nov 9, 2019 3:31 pm

My husband and I went to get our flu shots yesterday. The addresses of clinics to get the shot, and opening hours, were published in a community newspaper. The Saint Laurent (Montreal) clinic where we've gone previously wasn't listed, so we drove about 20 minutes to another location. Outside the door, there were maybe 18 people shivering in the icy winds, and there were about 15 people stuffed in between the outer and inner glass doors. I tried to look inside and saw lots more people and I didn't see any reception desk. So I suggested to my husband that we just leave. But the lady in front of us said that the line moves quickly, so we waited 6 or 7 minutes. The line did not move one bit, so we sneaked away quietly. (About 30 more people had joined the line).
    We went to the clinic we know in Saint Laurent, and the receptionist gave us a paper with a phone number to call for a flu shot appointment. Maybe an appointment is actually a better idea!

Re: Flu Shot - do you get it?

Posted by CharlotteS on Nov 9, 2019 8:14 pm

Hi y'all.  I am a bit late to wade in on this topic. I had a very serious discussion with our Oncologist and Pharmacist. My husband is on Immuno Therapy. I was concerned about loading up his system. The Flu shot is a 50/50 chance that the Science gets the right bug floating around the world this year. I'll take that bet if we can dodge that bullet. Doctor agrees. Next up -- the Pneumococcal shot. That opened up a whole other discussion. Every time you enter the Hospital for your Chemo you are exposed to Hospital pathogens. The Pharmacist highly recommended it.  However, be aware that Prevnar 13 is out of pocket here in BC. About $140.  You need to get that one first, followed by the Pheumovac 23 in 8 weeks.  That gives you coverage against 36 pathogens for the rest of your life.  No worries about stacking up too many vaccines.  Better safe than sorry.  As his caregiver I have had the same shots.
I hope this information helps. 

Re: Flu Shot - do you get it?

Posted by frozenstar on Nov 10, 2019 10:10 am

I usually don't get it. Nurse advised me to get it last week, I told her " ewe, ever time I tried it I felt icky afterwards." She said " did you feel so bad that we had to admit you to the ICU, because that's what the flu can do." So, I went and got it Friday w my hubby. She's right, its not worth the risk. My arm feels a little bruised from the shot, but it feels good knowing I took care of myself properly. 

Re: Flu Shot - do you get it?

Posted by Raven on Nov 10, 2019 11:19 am

No, I do not get the flu shot. 
My medical education taught me that no individual who is ill should ever be vaccinated, no matter what the private vaccine companies say who develop them. These individuals are already busy fighting off their disease or getting their immune system back on track. Having cancer is a chronic disease and may involve the immune system. 
Those who are healthy are likely strong enough to fight it off without issues and it is in those people the vaccine works best also. (So why give something they do not need)
On top of that the vaccine is about 50% effective at the most due to multiple factors, which is the same as doing nothing. Lastly, a small number of people have been harmed by the flu vaccine by getting a chronic disease as result (GBS). I take vaccinations very seriously and only support their use if there is good data that shows that lives are saved by them, I am not anti-vaxxer, I just look at each vaccine's benefit/risk ratio. With the flu vaccine, the data is weak. Multi-dose containers also contain thymerosol which I do not need. 
So I will take my chances. (I know not everyone agrees with me, that is fine)

When I first visited my family doctor pre cancer diagnosis, and was worried about spotting of blood being a sign of cancer, she said I needed a tetanus vaccination. I laughed at her and said: should we find out first if I have cancer? And then I did have cancer...after surgery and a few months later I went to see her, she ordered a gastrointestinal contrast study (my belly made a lot of noise) for which I still do not have an appointment, and then she said "You should get the shingles vaccine". We are not allowed to bring up multiple health issues in one doctor visit, but they can push vaccines while we are there to fight our cancer? The shingles vaccine should not be given to immune compromised individuals due to chronic illness, so I will pass on that one also. 

Re: Flu Shot - do you get it?

Posted by CentralAB on Nov 10, 2019 12:26 pm

I wouldnt say this about any other vaccine except the flu shot. I think, like any other medical treatment option, people can somewhat choose to get or not to get, but if your doctor advises it, I would just go ahead and get it. That being said; it is still more important to look at life style in preventing the flu. Ever notice that the flu bug seems to hit just when the Halloween or Christmas candy start coming out? Think sugar. Also, with really good hand washing technique, you are much less likely to catch flu yourself, or pass it on to others. That is the most important "treatment" in prevention of flu. When my wife was able, the first thing she would say to me when I walked in the door from getting groceries or some other errand out in the public, is "did you wash your hands?"  You can get small containers of hand sanitizer to carry around for those places that dont have it. But do wash your hands whenever you come in from somewhere and you will be half as likely to catch anything, or to spread it around.

Re: Flu Shot - do you get it?

Posted by Mammabear on Nov 10, 2019 3:52 pm

I was advised by both my GP and my oncologist to get the flu vaccine. The vaccine does not contain a live virus so you are fine to take it. It can have aches and pains side effects so I had it at the end of my weekly chemo cycle when I was feeling the best. All of our friends and family have also been asked to have the vaccine. Best prevention for any cold or flu is to wash your hands. People enter my house and either wash their hands or use hand sanitizer I have by the door. I hand sanitize the minute I leave any store. I wear a mask in public. Grocery store clerk asked me if I was sick and I said no I am protecting myself, not everyone else. My friends that are teachers or who have young children are cautious when they visit that they are germ free. But YES. Please get the shot to protect yourself and have your friends and family have it to protect you. 

Re: Flu Shot - do you get it?

Posted by PinkCarnations on Nov 10, 2019 6:43 pm

Hi Aries‍ ... For the past 3 years my GP and endocrinologist suggest that I get the flu shot because i'm diabetic. This year my GP suggested it because of the Cancer ... I always say no thanks. So far (knock on wood) I have not caught the flu. 

I don't even remember the last time I had the flu. 

Re: Flu Shot - do you get it?

Posted by Aries on Nov 10, 2019 8:51 pm

Thank you all for your input and feedback - it seems the opinions are about the same as the flu shot - 50-50 for the pros and cons.

I still haven't decided as I am genuinely worried that it will affect my immune system as I haven't had more than a bad cold in over a decade and if I got sick in the 14 days it takes to kick in, I will be so upset. I just had my blood work for prep for tomorrow's chemo and happy to say my blood cell counts are still excellent and staying within the appropriate range. 
I asked the nurses today for their opinion; 2 of the 3 said if it wasn't mandatory for them to get it, they wouldn't. They said, if you are healthy, you shouldn't need it.

I will think about it - you all have valid points :)

Re: Flu Shot - do you get it?

Posted by Jackwb on Nov 11, 2019 8:37 am

Some interesting comments in this thread...in Ontario most of us remember the mandatory polio and smallpox vaccinations we got in school in the 50's, shots that eliminated polio and smallpox in Canada. I wish that we had shots for chicken pox, mumps, and measles back then. We also remember that yellow booklet that recorded all of our shots back then, had to be provided to the school at the beginning of the year. Vaccinations were required for international travel, some countries still require them.

This was a good thing, people had no choice and we were all safer back then. Today, with my cancer, diabetes, and a severely impaired immune system I'm really afraid of getting something from sick people. People who refuses to get vaccinated are not only he most selfish people on earth but also a threat to those they come in contact with. They think it's OK to get sick and spread their disease to healthy people. They should look at the stats down south where 65,000 people died from the flu last year...maybe they should think back to that global swine flu epidemic that killed millions. With what's been happening lately, people who refuse to get vaccinated should be forced to wear big badges telling people that they are a potential threat to others.

Just sayin...

Re: Flu Shot - do you get it?

Posted by scaredysquirrel on Nov 14, 2019 3:39 am

I always get my flu shot, even after my chemo treatments, I got my flu shot.  My husband is diabetic, therefore it's important for me to keep getting my flu shot every year.  Yes, I've even gotten sick after getting the flu shot but most of the time I've been spared what's going around. 

Re: Flu Shot - do you get it?

Posted by Cynthia Mac on Nov 15, 2019 8:52 am

Well, I rolled up my sleeve (all the way up),and got the flu shot on Tuesday. The pharmacist was most gentle, and on his way out of the room, he said, “don’t forget your lollipop!” Now, I’m not sure if he was being sarcastic or genuine, but I’m leaning toward the latter, because he could clearly see me looking away and white-knuckling my pants legs.

I am not an anti-vaxxer, and I would sign up today to be a spokeswoman for Guardasil, but my issue with the flu vaccine is that it’s a “crap shoot” every year to know if they got the formula correct based on their predictions. Still, I read my horoscope whenever I get near a newspaper, so I guess taking one in the arm with about the same rate of an accurate outcome is doable.