Vaccinations provide essential protection against many diseases, however, if you are a transplant recipient you should not have live vaccines. This is because live vaccines contain living versions of the bacteria or virus that have been weakened (attenuated) so they do not cause the disease in healthy people. However, they could cause serious illness when your immune system is suppressed by anti-rejection drugs because your body is less able to mount an immune response to them. Examples of live attenuated vaccines to avoid include:
• MMR (measles, mumps and rubella)
• BCG (tuberculosis)
• Oral polio vaccine (people living with a transplant recipient should also avoid the live polio vaccine)
• Yellow fever (for travel to certain parts of Africa and South America)
• Varicella (chickenpox)
Inactivated (or ‘dead’) vaccines on the other hand, have been killed so cannot cause the disease that they are designed to protect against, and so may be given to transplant recipients. Examples of inactivated vaccines include:
• Flu vaccine
• Whooping cough
• Hepatitis A
• Hepatitis B
• Polio – inactivated injection
Before having any vaccinations, always check with your transplant team.
Once you have recovered from your transplant operation you should be able to enjoy holidays abroad. Talk to your transplant team before booking any holidays because there are certain countries you might need to avoid until at least one year after your transplant.
To travel in Europe, America, Australia or New Zealand you usually only need to be up-to-date with your standard vaccinations. If you are travelling somewhere else, you should check if extra vaccinations, or preventative medications such as malaria tablets, are necessary well in advance of your trip. Take this information to your transplant team where they will be able to advise if these vaccinations and medications are safe for you to have.
Always check with your transplant team before travelling abroad. They will be able to provide you with a letter to take with you detailing your condition and medications in case any problems arise.