Rheumatoid arthritis: Protect your health with vaccines

Learn why vaccines are so important for people who have rheumatoid arthritis.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Rheumatoid arthritis and the medications used to treat it can increase your risk of developing infections. Vaccinations can help prevent some of these infections.

An autoimmune disease, rheumatoid arthritis occurs when your immune system mistakenly attacks its own tissue. While rheumatoid arthritis primarily affects tissue lining your joints, it can also affect your lungs, heart, kidneys and eyes.

Rheumatoid arthritis medications work by suppressing your immune system. An unwanted side effect of this suppression, though, is an increased risk of infection — particularly in the lungs.

Vaccinations can help lower your risk of infection. But if you have a weakened immune system, you should avoid vaccines that contain live viruses. These types of vaccinations could cause infection in people with suppressed immune systems.

Vaccinations often recommended for people who have rheumatoid arthritis include:

  • Respiratory influenza. This annual vaccination is also known as the flu shot. The nasal spray version contains live virus, so it's not recommended.
  • Pneumonia. There are two main types of pneumonia vaccines for adults and both are recommended for people who have rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Shingles. The older shingles vaccine (Zostavax) contains live virus, so it's not recommended. While Zostavax is no longer available in the United States, other countries may still use it. The newer shingles vaccine (Shingrix) is not a live virus, so it may be a better option.
  • COVID-19 Some medications commonly used to control rheumatoid arthritis may reduce the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine. Your doctor might recommend temporarily stopping these medications for a short time.

Talk to your doctor about which vaccinations might be appropriate for you, and when during the course of your treatment is the best time to receive them.

April 09, 2021 See more In-depth

See also

  1. 3D Printer Helps Hip
  2. 6 tips to manage rheumatoid arthritis symptoms
  3. C-reactive protein test
  4. Do infrared saunas have any health benefits?
  5. Does stress make rheumatoid arthritis worse?
  6. Ease rheumatoid arthritis pain when grocery shopping
  7. Elbow Replacement
  8. Elbow replacement surgery
  9. Fatigue
  10. Hip replacement
  11. Hip resurfacing: An alternative to conventional hip replacement?
  12. Hip Surgery Overview
  13. Hockey Coach Gets Hip
  14. How do I reduce fatigue from rheumatoid arthritis?
  15. Is depression a factor in rheumatoid arthritis?
  16. Isometric exercise
  17. Joint pain
  18. Joint pain: Rheumatoid arthritis or parvovirus?
  19. Joint replacement
  20. Knee replacement
  21. Living better with rheumatoid arthritis
  22. Mangosteen juice: Can it relieve arthritis pain?
  23. MRI
  24. Osteoporosis and long-term prednisone: What is the risk?
  25. Outpatient joint replacement
  26. Palindromic rheumatism: Precursor to rheumatoid arthritis?
  27. Physical therapy
  28. Prednisone risks, benefits
  29. Prednisone withdrawal: Why taper down slowly?
  30. Protect your joints while housecleaning
  31. Rethinking Rheumatoid Arthritis
  32. Rheumatoid arthritis
  33. Rheumatoid Arthritis
  34. Rheumatoid arthritis: Does pregnancy affect symptoms?
  35. Rheumatoid arthritis and exercise
  36. Rheumatoid arthritis diet
  37. Rheumatoid arthritis: Can it affect the eyes?
  38. Rheumatoid arthritis: Can it affect the lungs?
  39. Rheumatoid arthritis medications: Dangerous during pregnancy?
  40. Rheumatoid arthritis pain: Tips for protecting your joints
  41. Rheumatoid factor
  42. Robotic-Arm Assisted Knee Resurfacing
  43. Sed rate (erythrocyte sedimentation rate)
  44. Seeing Inside the Heart with MRI
  45. Cane tips
  46. Joint protection
  47. Smoking and rheumatoid arthritis: What's the risk?
  48. Spinal fusion
  49. Stem Cells Get Hip
  50. Symptom Checker
  51. Tai chi
  52. Tips for coping with rheumatoid arthritis
  53. Tips to make your mornings easier
  54. Ultrasound
  55. Unexplained weight loss
  56. MRI
  57. Tai chi
  58. X-ray