Living well with lupus

Do vaccines cause lupus flares?

Research has shown that generally, inactivated (“dead“) or recombinant vaccines like the flu, pneumonia and tetanus shots do not increase lupus disease activity. However, there have been cases where people with lupus have experienced a flare after a vaccination. For this reason, it’s important to speak with your rheumatologist before receiving vaccinations of any type. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all people who are prone to infection and those on immunosuppressant medication receive the inactivated flu (the flu shot, not the nasal spray), pneumococcal (pneumonia) and tetanus vaccines.

Caution should be observed, and risks and benefits should be carefully weighed, with “live” vaccines that suppress the immune system. Live vaccines contain a weakened form of a live virus. These do not usually cause problems in people with lupus, but if the immune system is weak due to medications that suppress the immune system, live vaccines might cause symptoms of active infection. Examples of live vaccines include the nasal spray vaccine for the flu, the yellow fever vaccine, chicken pox and shingles vaccines, and the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine. Talk to your rheumatologist about whether or not these are right for you. 

It’s a good idea to talk to your rheumatologist about any vaccines you may need, as well as the risks and benefits of each.

Medically reviewed on May 15, 2014