Just before I started Rituxan, my rheumatologist wanted me to get both the annual flu vaccine and the separate H1N1 vaccine (which was only available to high priority persons at the time). This was easily done; maybe I developed a few sniffles afterwards, but nothing serious. I have never had a severe reaction to any vaccine, and certainly never one as serious as the one Leslie shared with us.
But since I know that my experience is just that of one person and Leslie’s experience is another, I wanted to know what other people’s experiences have been. So I posted a brief survey to learn a little bit more about adults living with or without chronic disease and their experience with vaccines. Thirty-seven people responded.
Here are the questions and a summary of responses:
1. Did you receive the standard CDC-recommended childhood vaccines?
- Thirty-five respondents (94.6%) indicated “Yes” or that they had received what was available at the time. One respondent said “No” and one respondent said “I don’t know.”
2. Have your children received the standard vaccines?
- Nineteen respondents (51.3%) indicated “Yes.” Two respondents (5.4%) indicated “No.” Fifteen respondents (40.5%) have no children and one person skipped this question. So of the persons with children, nineteen (90.5%) had their children fully vaccinated.
3. Do you have a chronic or autoimmune disease?
- Four respondents (10.8%) either skipped this question or indicated that they did not have a chronic disease. The remaining 33 respondents report having 45 diseases collectively: multiple sclerosis (27), rheumatoid arthritis (8), lupus (4), mixed connective tissue disease and/or scleroderma (2), psoriatic arthritis (1), heart disease (1), lung disease (1), chronic thrush (1). The co-morbidities included MS and RA (4), lupus and MCTD (2), MS and lupus (2), RA and lupus (1), MS and heart disease (1), MS and chronic thrush (1), and scleroderma and lung disease (1).
4. Have you received any vaccines as an adult?
- Thirty-three respondents (89.2%) report having had ANY vaccine as an adult. Two respondents (5.4%) have had NO adult vaccines and two respondents skipped this question.
5. Are you immunosuppressed or do you take immune-suppressing medications?
- Seventeen respondents (45.9%) answered “Yes” while seventeen respondents (45.9%) answered “No.” One person skipped this question. However, the medications cited by two respondents are not immune-suppressing, thus there may be confusion as to which disease-modifying drugs are immune-suppressing (ie. methotrexate, rituxan, humira, cytoxan) and which are immune-modulating (ie copaxone, rebif).
6. Have you ever had a severe reaction to any vaccine as an adult?
- Thirty respondents (81%) answered “No.” Six respondents (16.2%) answered “Yes” and one answered “I don’t know.” Two of the severe reactions involved triggering optic neuritis or an MS relapse and one reaction involved a serious case of cellulitis.
7. Do you get an annual flu vaccine?