Vaccination for seasonal influenza in patients with cancer: recommendations of the Italian Society of Medical Oncology (AIOM)

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Abstract

Background

Influenza virus causes annual epidemics in the winter–spring season with significant morbidity in the general population and important mortality in high-risk groups, including cancer patients. Opinions on the suitability of patients with malignancies not undergoing active treatment and in different phases of antineoplastic therapy, to receive influenza vaccination, vary considerably among oncologists, sometimes even within one center.

Methods

We reviewed available data, including recommendations by national health authorities, on impact of influenza in patients with cancer and their capacity to mount protective immunological responses to vaccination, thus allowing, on behalf of Italian Association of Medical Oncology, to make suitable recommendations for the prevention and treatment of seasonal influenza.

Results and discussion

Patients with cancer often have disease- or treatment-related immunosuppression, and as a consequence, they may have a suboptimal serologic response to influenza vaccination. The protective effect of the different preparations of influenza vaccines in patients with cancer has not been widely investigated, especially in adult patients harboring solid tumors. The optimal timing for administration of influenza vaccines in patients receiving chemotherapy is also not clearly defined. However, since vaccination is the most effective method, along with antiviral drugs in selected patients, for preventing influenza infection, it has to be recommended for cancer patients. Implementing vaccination of close contacts of oncology patients would be an additional tool for enhancing protection in fragile patient populations.

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