Vaccines play an important role in keeping us healthy. They protect us from serious and sometimes deadly diseases. Because people with renal disease have weakened immune systems, they are more susceptible to getting sick if they do not receive the proper vaccinations.


What is the difference between a vaccine, vaccinations, and immunizations?

As you learn about vaccines and how they protect you, it may be helpful to understand the difference between vaccines, vaccinations, and immunizations.

  • A vaccine is made from very small amounts of weak or dead germs that can cause diseases. The introduction of these germs prepares your body to fight the disease faster and more effectively so that you don't get sick.
  • Vaccination is the act of getting a vaccine, usually as a shot.
  • Immunization is the process of becoming immune to or protected against a disease.

How do vaccines prevent disease?

Vaccines reduce the risk of infection by working with the body's natural defenses to help it safely develop immunity to disease.

When germs, such as bacteria or viruses, invade the body, they attack and multiply. This invasion is called an infection, and the infection is what causes illness. The immune system then has to fight the infection. Once it fights off the infection, the body is left with a supply of cells that help recognize and fight that disease in the future.

Recommended Vaccinations for Dialysis Patients

Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. The liver is a vital organ that processes nutrients, filters the blood, and fights infections. When the liver is inflamed or damaged, its function can be affected. It is a serious infection that can be dangerous and even life-threatening. Hepatitis B is spread through contact with blood or body fluids from someone who has the virus. Dialysis patients are at greater risk for exposure to this virus due to repeated access to the bloodstream during treatment.

Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs and affects millions of people worldwide each year. Pneumococcal disease is common in young children, but older adults are at the greatest risk of serious illness and death. Vaccines are the best way to prevent pneumococcal disease.

Two pneumococcal vaccines are recommended for adults:

  • Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13, Prevnar13®)
  • Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23, Pneumovax®23)7

Influenza (flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness. Serious outcomes of flu infection can result in hospitalization or death. Dialysis patients are at a higher risk of serious flu complications. Each year there are different types of vaccines available; some are better suited for kidney patients. The best way to prevent the flu is by getting vaccinated each year; the best time to get vaccinated is in October or November.

Tools & Resources

ESRD Network Program

Other Resources

  • Vaccine Basics: Link
  • Vaccines and Dialysis - What You Need to Know: Booklet
  • Renal Disease and Adult Vaccination: Link
  • About Vaccines and Immunization: Link
  • CDC's Pneumococcal Vaccine Timing for Adults: Link