Multiple Sclerosis and the Flu Shot

Posted by Ashley Griffin on November 03, 2014

Multiple Sclerosis and the Flu Shot

With winter right around the corner, flu season is looming as well.  And many people are wondering if they should get the flu shot, especially those who have been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.  Dr. Aaron Miller, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s Chief Medical Officer, is recommending the flu shot to MS patients this year. Despite popular belief, he states that the vaccine is safe and effective for those living with the autoimmune disease.

Busting the Myth

Many people are turned off from receiving the vaccine because they are concerned that the flu shot will actually make them sick.  The truth is you will get sick after getting the flu shot only if you are exposed to someone showing flu-like symptoms around the time that you receive the vaccination.

Many people also feel that with so many new strains of the flu virus, there’s no reason to vaccinate yourself.  This year, the flu shot contains a vaccine that will be fighting against three different influenza viruses for the upcoming flu season.  And they are three of the strongest strains.

How Will My MS Be Affected?

Naturally, there are concerns regarding the flu shot and those with MS. The flu shot has been proven safe for MS patients on FDA approved medications. However, it has not been approved yet for those taking Natalizumad (Tysabri) or Fingolimod (Gilenya), so we recommend checking in with your physician before signing up for a flu shot if you are currently on either of those medications.

Doctors recommend not getting the flu shot if you are experiencing an exacerbation of your symptoms. It is recommended to wait at least 6 weeks after a relapse to receive the vaccination.

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society has provided the following information regarding special considerations for MS patients considering the flu shot:

  • “People on therapies that suppress the immune system (immunosuppressants), such as mitoxantrone (Novantrone), azathioprine (Imuran), methotrexate (Trexall), cyclophosphamide (i.e. Cytoxan) and/or chronic corticosteroid therapy should consult their neurologist before taking any live-virus vaccine. A person with a suppressed immune system would be at greater risk for developing the disease.
  • Inactivated vaccines are generally considered safe for individuals who are taking an interferon medication, glatiramer acetate (Copaxone), mitoxantrone (Novantrone), natalizumab (Tysabri), or fingolimod (Gilenya).
  • People who have received immune globulin preparation in the past three months may not receive the full effect of a vaccine.  A recent study demonstrated that teriflunomide-treated patients (Aubagio) generally mounted effective immune responses to seasonal influenza vaccination.”

If you have MS and are considering receiving the flu shot, talk to your doctor first and see if it is a good fit for you.  Make sure you are clear about your concerns in receiving the vaccination and comfortable with your answers. Get a head start preparing for this upcoming flu season and keep yourself as healthy as possible!


TAGS: MS and flu shot