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Living With Multiple Sclerosis? What to Know About Vaccines

(StatePoint) Can a person with multiple sclerosis (MS) get regular vaccines? According to a new guideline, the answer is yes.

Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that can affect a person’s brain, optic nerves and spinal cord. People with MS often experience muscle weakness and have trouble with balance and coordination. While in the past doctors have encouraged those with MS to avoid certain shots in order to prevent flare-ups, the newly published guideline, developed by the American Academy of Neurology (AAN), recommends vaccination, including yearly flu shots.

The guideline, recently published in “Neurology,” the medical journal of the AAN, is endorsed by the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers and by the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America, and updates the 2002 AAN guideline on immunization and multiple sclerosis. 

“We reviewed all of the available evidence and for people with MS, preventing infections through vaccine use is a key part of medical care,” says guideline lead author, Dr. Mauricio F. Farez of the FLENI Institution and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. “People with MS should feel safe and comfortable getting their recommended vaccinations.”

Here are a few additional items that those with MS should keep in mind before getting vaccinated, according to the new guideline:

• Make sure your neurologist or care team knows what MS medications you are using before receiving vaccinations. There is some evidence that shows that certain vaccinations may not work as well with some MS medications.

• If you are experiencing an MS flare, consult your neurologist. You may want to consider waiting until the flare has passed before receiving vaccinations.

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“After reviewing all the available evidence, we found that there is not enough information to say whether or not vaccinations trigger or worsen MS flares,” says Dr. Farez. “Still, experts urge their patients to hold off on scheduling their vaccinations if they are having an MS flare simply to avoid the potential for any complications.”

• Some vaccines might not work well enough to prevent infection for some people with MS who take certain MS medications. However, it is recommended that people still work with their care team to maintain their regular recommended vaccinations, including the flu shot.

To learn more about MS, visit BrainandLife.org, home of the AAN’s free patient and caregiver magazine focused on the intersection of neurologic disease and brain health, or follow Brain & Life on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. For more information about the AAN, the world’s largest association of neurologists and neuroscience professionals, visit AAN.com.

If you have MS, talk to your neurologist about the latest guideline. Preventing infections through vaccines may now be a key part of your medical care.

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Photo Credit: (c) FotoDuets / iStock via Getty Images Plus

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