• Sarah Schafer, MD

Vaccines and Sjogren's

Updated: May 21, 2021

If you have delayed getting a flu shot, please consider getting it soon. Get the shot, not the flu –mist, which has live virus. While there are few contraindications to the flu shot, consult your rheumatologist if you are unsure.

The flu kills 12,000 - 56,000 people every year in the US. Sjogren’s patients are at higher risk of severe disease, complications and even death from serious infections. Influenza is serious. The New York Times published an article this week about vaccine risks. You can read it to look at the risk of flu vaccine vs. the risk of the flu.

You may have read that the flu vaccine is not highly effective this year. This is because the flu virus constantly changes (mutates). The U.S. vaccine is manufactured based on Southern Hemisphere strains. Sometimes the virus mutates significantly before the flu season hits in North America. It is still worth getting it! If you do get the flu, the disease is likely to be much less severe if you have been vaccinated.

Recommendations for vaccines in autoimmune disease patients were recently updated by EULAR, Europe’s version of the ACR. The flu vaccine rarely causes reactions and definitely does not cause the flu. Remember, even if your Sjogren’s is “mild,” the disease is systemic and the immune system does not function normally. One of the causes of premature mortality in Sjogren’s is severe infection. Immunizations are an important part of Sjogren’s care.

Reminder: This is not directly related to the vaccine topic, but I realize that many people do not know that this page exists. There are some great self-advocacy tips on this page. It is geared toward working with PCPs, but many of the concepts translate to other situations with providers. https://www.sjogrensadvocate.com/self-advocacy-for-diagnosis

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