- 1 Quick answers about vaccines for people with asthma, allergies and related conditions:
- 2 Vaccines for Adults (age 19 and older)
- 3 Vaccines and Pregnancy
- 4 Vaccines for Travelers
- 5 Vaccines for Children (birth to 18 years)
- 6 Some frequently asked questions about childhood vaccinations
If you or your child has asthma or other chronic lung disease, you may be at higher risk for severe illness from contagious diseases. Do you know if you are on track with vaccinations that are recommended for you or your children?
Use the following to learn facts about vaccines for people with asthma and allergies. Learn what vaccines are recommended for you. Once you learn these facts, you can begin a conversation with your healthcare team to stay on track with vaccinations for your family.
We encourage you to talk with your doctor, nurse or healthcare provider to ensure you and your family are protected against serious disease.
People with asthma who get the flu are at high risk for severe complications, 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, especially those at high risk for complications, get the flu vaccine. It’s the best protection against getting sick with the flu and/or passing it on to others.
Many people with egg allergy are concerned that the flu and COVID-19 vaccines contain egg proteins. Some (but not all) flu vaccines contain egg proteins. The amount is very tiny and recent guidelines say flu shots for egg-allergic people do not pose a risk for an allergic reaction. None of the available COVID-19 vaccines contain any egg proteins so there is no egg allergy risk.
Adults and children with asthma who are 6 months of age and older can get the COVID-19 vaccine (and booster shots if eligible) as long as they have not had a severe allergic reaction to any of the vaccine’s ingredients. People with asthma who use inhaled or oral corticosteroids and biologic medications can also get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Multiple COVID-19 vaccines are available for children. The Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are available for children starting at 6 months of age and up. Both are Messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines designed to trigger an immune response that produces antibodies. The Novavax vaccine is available for children between the ages of 12-17. It is a protein-based vaccine designed to identify the virus and fight it off if you are infected.
Pneumonia is a serious concern for people with asthma. Pneumonia is caused by an infection that inflames air sacs in the lungs. It leads to cough, fever and difficulty breathing. There are two types of pneumonia vaccines available. CDC recommends the pneumonia vaccine for children younger than 2, adults between the ages of 19 and 64 with asthma, and all adults 65 years of age or older.
People with asthma are at higher risk for getting whooping cough. They are also at risk for developing severe symptoms if they do get whooping cough because it can worsen asthma control. Adults who have never had whooping cough can get it anytime. Most children are given a series of whooping cough shots in the first year of life. They receive boosters between 15 and 18 months and between 4 and 6 years of age. Expectant mothers should get the whooping cough vaccine because it helps protect newborns.
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. Despite a lack of published research, the level of risk for a latex-allergic reaction to a vaccine is very low. The vaccine should be given unless the patient has a history of 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? You can take this quick 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.
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 or other chronic lung disease? 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)
When your children are in school, it’s important for you to work with your child’s doctor or nurse to make sure they are caught up on well-child visits and recommended vaccines.
Wondering what vaccines your child may need? You can take this quick quiz to get a list of recommended vaccines for children and students heading off to college. The quiz is also available in Spanish.
Some frequently asked questions about childhood vaccinations
Here are some FAQs that patients ask pediatricians about the risks associated with vaccines for children:
Why are vaccines important?
Before vaccines, contagious diseases like polio, measles and smallpox ran rampant through communities, killing huge numbers of people. Now, thanks to vaccines, smallpox is eradicated and polio is almost non-existent. In 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 and it takes time to build it up again. In the meantime, young children are vulnerable to disease, and vaccination is the best way to protect them. Delaying it just puts your baby and others at greater risk.
Are there side effects to vaccines?
Vaccines require rigorous safety studies before FDA approval. Most vaccines available today have been used for decades, with few problems. Side effects are mild and rare. Over 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 only 12 children with what turned out to be falsified evidence.
Why do vaccines contain aluminum and mercury? Aren’t they dangerous?
Aluminum is an additive that makes the active ingredients more effective, while mercury (also called thimerosal) is a preservative. Both are naturally occurring elements widely found in our environment, and the amounts contained in vaccines are less than what a baby receives from breast milk.
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.