fluFall is finally here, and with it comes the onset of Flu Season. Flu is a difficult illness for everyone, but for cancer patients, it can be devastating.

On average, 5 percent to 20 percent of the U.S. population gets the flu, tens of thousands are hospitalized, and thousands die from flu related illness. 1

Although there is no way to predict the severity and length of an individual flu season, it is important for GIST patients to receive their vaccinations as early as possible. Flu activity peaks between December and March in the United States.

The CDC recommends that cancer patients as well as close family members be vaccinated by the end of October.

Important information about the flu:

  • The flu shot is a seasonal vaccine. Each year it is designed to combat strains of flu expected to cause illness in the current season.
  • Being a cancer patient puts you at an increased risk of complications, which can include pneumonia, hospitalization and even death.
  • Choosing to get a flu shot is your best protection against the flu.

Always consult your physician before getting vaccinated. There may be certain medical contraindications to being vaccinated.

2018-2019 Season

For the current 2018-2019 season, the CDC has shared the following updates:

  • Flu vaccines have been updated to better match circulating viruses (the B/Victoria component was changed and the influenza A, or H3N2 component was updated).
  • For the 2018-2019 season, the nasal spray flu vaccine (live attenuated influenza vaccine or “LAIV”) is again a recommended option for influenza vaccination of persons for whom it is otherwise appropriate. The nasal spray is approved for use in non-pregnant individuals, 2 years through 49 years of age. There is a precaution against the use of LAIV for people with certain underlying medical conditions. All ALAIV will be q four-component vaccine.
  • Most regular dose egg-based flu shots will be four-component (Quadrivalent).
  • All recombinant vaccine will be four-component.
  • There will be no three-component vaccine this season.
  • Cell-grown flu vaccine will be four-component. For this vaccine, the influenza A (H3N2) and both influenza B reference viruses will be cell-derived, and the influenza A(H1N1) will be egg -derived. All these reference viruses will be grown in cells to produce the components of Flucelvax.
  • Non intradermal flu vaccine will be available.
  • The age recommendation for Fluariz Quadrivalent was changed from 3 years old and older to six months and older after the annual recommendations were published last season to be considered with FDA approved labeling.
  • The age recommendation for Afluria Quadrivalent was changed form 18 years old and older to 5 years old and older after the annual recommendations were published last season to be consistent with the FDA approved labeling.

Options for the flu shot:

For the 2018-2019 flu season, the options include:

  • Standard dose flu shots -These are given into the muscle. They are usually given with a needle, but two (Afluria and Afluria Quadrivalent) can be given to some people (those 18 through 4) with a jet injector.
  • High dose shots for older people
  • Shots made with adjuvant for older people
  • Shots made with virus grown in cell culture
  • Shots made using a vaccine production technology (recombinant vaccine) that does not require the use of flu virus.
  • Live attenuated influenza virus (LAIV) or the nasal spray vaccine is also an option for persons whom it is otherwise appropriate.2

Talk to your physician, and make an appointment for your flu shot today!


  1.  Molinari NA, et al. Vaccine 25 (2007)
  1. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/flu-season-2018-2019.htm
Mary Garland
Author: Mary Garland