Grandmother with her grandchild looking at the bandaid from the vaccine she just got. They are both smiling and joyful.

August 15, 2023

Do you or your child have asthma or another chronic lung disease? If so, you may be at higher risk for severe illness from contagious viruses such as the flu or COVID-19. It’s important for people with asthma to stay on track with recommended vaccinations – especially if they’re diagnosed with moderate to severe asthma.

New COVID-19 vaccine booster shots are expected to be available for 2023-24. Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and Novavax are developing updated boosters of their vaccines that would target the latest Omicron subvariant. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is reviewing the booster for approval.

These would be the first COVID-19 vaccines available from the manufacturers and not the U.S. government. Health insurance will cover the costs for it. However, children and adults who are uninsured will be eligible to receive the vaccines at no cost through U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) programs.

New respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) vaccines and a preventive RSV treatment are going to be available this fall. The vaccines are for adults ages 60 and older. The preventive treatment is for infants and young children.
Learn the facts about vaccines for people with asthma and allergies. Find out which vaccines are recommended for you. Then begin a conversation with your doctor, nurse and healthcare team.

Quick answers about vaccines for people with asthma, allergies and related conditions:

Flu vaccine and asthma

People with asthma who get the flu are at high risk for severe illness. Complications can arise even if their asthma is well controlled. The flu virus can inflame airways and trigger an asthma attack.

CDC recommends all people 6 months of age or older get the flu vaccine. It’s the best protection against getting sick with the flu and passing it on to others.

September and October are the best times for most people to get vaccinated against the flu. But any time is better than not at all. CDC says pregnant people in their third trimester and children who need two doses or have summer doctor appointments prior to school can opt to get the flu vaccine in July or August.

Egg allergy and flu/COVID-19 vaccines

Many people who are allergic to eggs express concern that vaccines have egg protein. Some – but not all – flu vaccines have egg protein. But the amount is very small. And none of the available COVID-19 vaccines contain any egg proteins so there is no egg allergy risk.

CDC guidelines say flu vaccines do not pose a risk for an allergic reaction to eggs. So it is safe for people with egg allergy to receive the flu vaccine. CDC has recommended that people with a severe egg allergy get the flu vaccine in a doctor’s office so they can be monitored afterward. But in 2023, CDC said this precaution is no longer necessary.


COVID-19 vaccine and asthma

Adults and children 6 months of age and older with asthma can get a COVID-19 vaccine and/or booster shot. This includes people with asthma who use inhaled or oral corticosteroids and biologic medications.

Allergic reactions to COVID-19 vaccines are very rare. If you have previously had a severe allergic reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine or any of its ingredients, then you should not get the vaccine. Talk with your doctor about other COVID-19 prevention strategies.

COVID-19 vaccines for children

Several COVID-19 vaccines are available for children. The Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are available for children 6 months of age and up. Both are  Messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines. They work by triggering an immune response that produces COVID-19 antibodies. The Novavax vaccine is available for children between the ages of 12-17. It is a protein-based vaccine that identifies the virus and can fend off infection.

Pneumonia vaccine and asthma

Pneumonia is a serious health concern for people with asthma. Pneumonia is an infection that inflames air sacs in the lungs. It leads to cough, fever and difficulty breathing.

CDC recommends the pneumonia vaccine for:

  • children younger than 2
  • adults between the ages of 19 and 64 with asthma
  • all adults 65 years of age or older

RSV vaccines and asthma

Two respiratory syncytial vaccines (RSV) for older adults ages 60+ are coming in fall 2023. A monoclonal antibody  that protects infants and young children from RSV is also coming this fall. The treatments develop antibodies against the protein that enters cells and causes the virus. People with asthma diagnosed with RSV are at risk for more serious illness.

The RSV vaccines are expected to offer protection for an entire RSV season, which is about five months. They could potentially last up to a year.

Whooping cough (pertussis) vaccines and asthma

People with asthma are at higher risk for getting whooping cough. They are also at risk for developing severe asthma symptoms if they do get whooping cough.

Most children receive a series of whooping cough vaccines in the first year of life. They receive boosters between 15 and 18 months and between 4 and 6 years of age.

Adults who have never had a whooping cough vaccine should also get one. Expectant mothers should get the whooping cough vaccine because it helps protect newborns.

Latex allergy and vaccines

Some vaccines use vial closures and syringes that may contain latex proteins. There is concern that latex proteins may get mixed in with the vaccine. The risk level for a latex-allergic reaction to a vaccine is very low. You should receive your vaccines unless you have previously had a severe allergic reaction to latex.

Vaccines for Adults (age 19 and older)

Wondering what vaccines you may need for yourself? Not sure if it’s time for a pneumonia vaccine if you have asthma or COPD? Take this quiz to get a list of vaccines you may need. Discuss the quiz results with your healthcare team. The quiz is also available in Spanish.

Vaccines and Pregnancy

Wondering about whether vaccines are safe during pregnancy? Not sure if you should get the flu shot if you are pregnant and have asthma or other chronic lung disease? You can take a quiz to get a list of vaccines you may need during pregnancy.

Discuss the quiz results with your healthcare team. The quiz is also available in Spanish. You can also read up on Vaccines and Pregnancy: 8 Things You Need to Know.

Vaccines for Travelers

Not sure what vaccines you may need before traveling overseas if you have asthma? You can take a quiz to get a list of vaccines you may need before you travel. Discuss the quiz results with your healthcare team. The quiz is also available in Spanish.

Vaccines for Children (birth to 18 years)

Make sure your child is up to date on vaccinations. It is one of the best things you can do for your child. Vaccinations not only protect your child from contagious diseases, but they also protect your community. Schedule regular well-child visits with your child’s doctor and ask about recommended vaccines.

Wondering what vaccines your child may need? Take this quick quiz to get a list of recommended vaccines for children. It is helpful for students heading off to college, too. The quiz is also available in Spanish.

Questions & Answers (Q&A) about childhood vaccinations

Here are some frequently asked questions that patients ask doctors about vaccination:

Why are vaccines important?

Before vaccines, diseases like polio, measles and smallpox would run rampant through communities. They would kill huge numbers of people. Now, thanks to vaccines, smallpox is eradicated and polio is almost non-existent.

In some areas of the United States and elsewhere in the developed world where parents opt out of vaccines, dangerous diseases such as measles and whooping cough are making a comeback. If we stop immunizing, it won’t take long for outbreaks to spread. People who are not immunized put themselves and others at risk for contagious diseases.

Remember: around the world, a child dies every 20 seconds from a disease that can be prevented with a vaccine.

Why do I need to vaccinate my infant? Why can’t I wait until the child is older?

Babies are born with very immature immune systems. Newborns receive some immunity from their mother, but this quickly wears off. It takes time to build it up again. Young children are vulnerable to disease. Vaccination is the best way to protect them. Delaying it puts your baby and others at higher risk for illness.

Are there side effects to vaccines? 

Vaccines go through rigorous safety studies before FDA approval. Most vaccines available today have been used for decades, with few problems. Side effects are mild and rare. Through the years, vaccines have been made more safe and effective.

Do vaccines cause autism?

Vaccines do not cause autism. Vigorous studies around the world have found no connection. The original research that sparked this fear was a small study of 12 children that involved falsified evidence.

Why do vaccines contain aluminum and mercury? Aren’t they dangerous?

Aluminum is an additive that makes the vaccine’s active ingredients more effective. Mercury (also called thimerosal) is a preservative. Both are naturally occurring elements found in our environment. They are in foods, including fruits, vegetables and milk. In fact, the amount of aluminum and mercury in vaccines is less than what a baby receives from breast milk.

Reviewed by:
Purvi Parikh, MD, FACAAI is an adult and pediatric allergist and immunologist at Allergy and Asthma Associates of Murray Hill in New York City. She is on faculty as Clinical Assistant Professor in both departments of Medicine and Pediatrics at New York University School of Medicine.