What is IBD?

Inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD, is a lifelong disease of inflammation, or swelling, in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. IBD causes your body and immune system to think that food, bacteria and other natural things in the intestine are not supposed to be there. With this, your body’s immune system attacks your bowels, causing inflammation.

IBD affects both men and women and is often first diagnosed in people in their late teens and 20s, though it can be found at any age. Symptoms of IBD can be different for each person and may depend on the type of IBD you have, such as rectal bleeding, abdominal pain and cramping.

There are two main types of inflammatory bowel disease: ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are illnesses with times of remission (when you feel well) and relapse (when you feel ill). Several types of medicines are often used to manage IBD and help to lessen disease activity in the gut, including aminosalicylates, steroids, biologics and immunosuppressants, which help quiet down the overactive immune system.

What are vaccines?

Vaccines are used to create a response that gives your body protection (immunity) against infectious diseases. That means you can be exposed to certain diseases without becoming infected or getting as sick as you might have without the vaccine. Vaccines are usually given through needle injections.

There are many kinds of vaccines. Live vaccines contain a weakened form of the virus. Inactivated vaccines contain a dead form of the virus. Messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines teach your cells how to make a protein that will cause an immune response inside your body.1

Vaccines are safe and effective. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) work hard to make sure vaccines are safe both before and after vaccines are used by the public. Visit the CDC website to learn more.

If you have IBD, you need to work closely with your health care providers to make sure you are getting the vaccines you need at the right time.

Vaccination with IBD

When you have IBD, it is even more important to protect your body from infections because they may cause your IBD to flare up. With IBD, your immune system is distracted fighting your own body, so you may become sicker than someone who does not have IBD with a routine infection. This makes it more important to get vaccinated to train your body’s immune system to fight infections.2

Talk to your primary care physician and your gastroenterologist (GI) about what vaccines you need for your IBD treatment regimen, age and sex.

The American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) supports recommendations for vaccines in adults with IBD. Talk to your health care providers to decide what’s best for you. 3,4

  • Your health care provider should review what vaccines and vaccine-preventable diseases you’ve had when you’re first diagnosed with IBD, no matter your age, and continue to discuss vaccines during your regular health care visits.
  • You should be given the vaccine(s) for the infections to which you are not immune as soon as possible.
  • You should be up-to-date or receive any live vaccines prior to starting some immunosuppressive treatments, such as biologics.
Vaccine Recommendation
  • All patients with and without IBD.
  • There are 3 vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson).
DTaP: Diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis
All patients, with and without IBD.
Flu: Influenza
It is especially important with IBD to have the flu vaccine every year. With IBD, you can only get the shot (and not the spray in the nose).
Hepatitis B
Patients with IBD who don't have immunity based on a blood test, especially before starting an immunosuppressive treatment.

Hib: Haemophilus influenzae type b

Patients with IBD who haven't had it yet.
HPV: Human papillomavirus
All patients, with and without IBD, before age 45.
Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR)
Live vaccine recommended for patients with IBD who are not taking immunosuppressive therapy.
All patients, with and without IBD, who are about to start college and those who live in group settings.
Pneumococcal (pneumonia)
  • Patients with IBD who are on immunosuppressive therapy should get the pneumonia vaccine.
  • Patients with IBD who are not on immunosuppressive therapy but who are at risk of pneumonia should get the pneumonia vaccine.
  • There are 2 vaccines (PPSV-23 and Prevnar-13).
Shingrix: Recombinant herpes zoster
Recommended for all adults 50 years and over and patients 18-49 years with IBD who are treated with immunosuppression.
Varicella (chicken pox)
Live vaccine recommended for patients with IBD who are not taking immunosuppressive therapy.

These are general vaccine guidelines and recommendations for patients with IBD. Always talk to your health care providers, including your GI, about what vaccines you need.



Updated June 2022