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Flu and other vaccinations

Information on vaccinations for patients having chemotherapy and immunotherapy.

Flu vaccinations

All patients receiving chemotherapy and immunotherapy are at risk from flu.  Flu immunisation is recommended if you will be receiving treatment during the autumn and winter.  Ideally you should be vaccinated 7 – 10 days before your  treatment starts.  The immunisation may not be as effective if you have already started treatment because your immune response may be lowered.  This reduces your body’s ability to form the antibodies needed to protect you from flu.

If you are vaccinated during a course of chemotherapy or immunotherapy, this should be done when your white cell count is at a normal level.  You should avoid being vaccinated when your white cell count is low because you may develop a raised temperature.  This could be confused with a fever, caused by infection, and could result in unnecessary hospital treatment.  Your doctor or nurse will be able to advise you on the right time to have your vaccine.

The adult flu vaccine

This vaccine does not contain any live flu virus so cannot give you the flu.

Child flu vaccine

The children’s flu vaccine is given as drops into the nose. This does contain a weakened live virus and so there is a very small chance of catching flu from a child if your white cell count is low. Or if you have not been vaccinated in the 2 weeks before contact with that child. In this situation you should avoid close contact with children who have had the nasal flu vaccine for 2 weeks. If close contact with a child is unavoidable e.g. you are the parent, guardian or carer then you need to discuss with your GP if it is safer for the child to have the adult injected vaccine instead. 

Other vaccines

You should not have any live vaccines while you are having chemotherapy and for 6 months afterwards.  Examples of live vaccines include:

  • MMR (the triple vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella)
  • BCG
  • Shingles
  • Yellow fever

Who will give the vaccination?

All vaccinations will be given by your own GP practice.

Further questions

If you have any further questions about vaccines please speak to your doctor, nurse or pharmacy team.

Simple measures for you and your family to prevent the spread of flu include covering the mouth or nose when coughing and sneezing, washing your hands and the safe disposal of used tissues. Catch it – Bin It– Kill It!


You are at an increased risk of picking up infections because your white blood cells which help fight infections can be reduced by this treatment. 

If you develop an infection whilst your white blood cells are low, you are at risk of sepsis, this can be life threatening.

Contact Velindre Cancer Centre immediately if you develop any signs of infection, for example flu like symptoms or a temperature above 37.5°centigrade or if your temperature is below 35.5°.  The telephone number is at the end of the leaflet.




















Contact telephone numbers


Velindre Cancer Centre          029 2061 5888

Ask for the treatment helpline if you are unwell at home and need immediate advice at any time of the day or night. 


Pharmacy department            029 2061 5888 ext 6223

Monday – Friday 9am – 5pm for queries about your medicines


Macmillan freephone Helpline       0808 808 0000

7 days a week 8am – 8pm for general queries on cancer


Tenovus freephone                       0808 808 1010

cancer helpline

7 days a week 8am – 8pm for general queries on cancer



This information is also available in Welsh


This leaflet was written by health professionals.  The information contained in this leaflet is evidence based.  It has been approved by doctors, nurses and patients.  It is reviewed and updated every 2 years.


Prepared October 2013         Reviewed December 2019