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  • Contraindications & Precautions

Should vaccines be withheld for patients on steroids?

Steroid treatment, and possible immunosuppression, is primarily a concern with live virus vaccines. Steroid therapy that is short term (less than 2 weeks); alternate-day; physiologic replacement; topical (skin or eyes); aerosol; or given by intra-articular, bursal, or tendon injection are not considered contraindications to the use of live virus vaccines. The immunosuppressive effects of corticosteroid treatment vary, but many clinicians consider a dose equivalent to either 2 mg/kg of body weight or a total of 20 mg per day of prednisone (or equivalent) for 2 or more weeks as sufficiently immunosuppressive to raise concern about the safety of vaccination with live virus vaccines (e.g., MMR, varicella, live attenuated influenza, yellow fever). Providers should wait at least 1 month after discontinuation of therapy or reduction of dose before administering a live virus vaccine to patients who have received high systemically absorbed doses of corticosteroids for 2 weeks or more. Inactivated vaccines and toxoids can be administered to all immunocompromised patients in usual doses and schedules, although the response to these vaccines may be suboptimal.

Last reviewed: August 29, 2022

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