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Julie  Stachowiak, Ph.D.

Time for Your Flu Shot

By September 26, 2007

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I used to dread the flu shot (influenza vaccine), and would start gathering my excuses and missing opportunities to get the injection - all because I was afraid of needles. Then I got the flu one year, and felt so terrible for so long, that I decided that once a year (but no more) I could tolerate a needle for the sake of prevention. (Are any of you laughing yet?) Then I was diagnosed with MS, and now give myself a daily injection. Know what? I still don't love getting a flu shot.

Having said this, I am the first person in line to get mine. I really believe that it is a very important thing for people with MS to do in order to stay well. The flu can knock anyone for a loop, but for those of us with MS, it can cause a relapse or seriously worsen symptoms. It hardly seems fair to suffer through the heat and humidity of the summer, just to face the threat of all sorts of viral invaders that appear in the fall and winter - the flu shot gives us some protection from one of the "baddies."

I've pulled together the recommendations of the Multiple Sclerosis Council for Clinical Practice Guidelines about getting the flu shot if you have MS, incorporating new developments, like Tysabri and FluMist. I've made an effort to really answer any questions you may have, including: Can I get the flu shot if I am on Avonex? What if I never get the flu and just don't want it? What if I get regular doses of Solu-Medrol?

Here's the bottom line:

  • If you have MS, get the flu shot (NOT FluMist, the nasal vaccine), especially if you have limited mobility.
  • Don't get the flu shot (or any vaccine) if you are taking Tysabri.
  • If you are having a relapse, delay the flu shot.
  • Oh, yeah - and if you don't have MS, but live with or care for someone who does, please get the flu shot.

Read the complete article: Should I Get a Flu Shot if I Have Multiple Sclerosis?

September 27, 2007 at 7:29 pm
(1) Tom Patane says:


Why “(NOT FluMist, the nasal vaccine)”?

It cost me a lot last year – but at least I did not have to fight to get it…

As for “if you don’t have MS, but live with or care for someone who does, please get the flu shot.” Is the nasal vaccine good enough for care givers?

October 1, 2007 at 9:06 pm
(2) LisaNicholson says:

Depending on the caregivers overall health, thay may be able to take the “flu-mist”. And as for having to fight to get the “shot”, quantities this year are not going to be a problem.
And the cost is better than the mist. The mist was designed for infants and toddlers. The shortage in the last two years has (hopefully) been dealt with!

October 5, 2007 at 4:41 am
(3) Lina says:

Don’t you think that vaccinations could cause MS exacerbations the same way as infections could? There is a controversy regarding the influence of vaccinations on neurological damage/ CNS demyelination, plus confirmed Gullian-Barre Syndrome. Just curious: how soon after the flu shot you started to experience MS symptoms? Quoted below is the paragraph from the page 8 of the package insert of flu vaccine Fluarix manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline: “Postmarketing reports: … Nervous System Disorders: Convulsion, dizziness, encephalomyelitis, facial palsy, facial paresis, Guillain-Barré syndrome, hypoesthesia, myelitis, neuritis, neuropathy, paresthesia.”
FluZone package insert, page 9:
“Neurological disorders temporally associated with influenza vaccination such as encephalopathy, optic neuritis/neuropathy, partial facial paralysis, and brachial plexus neuropathy have been reported”. What do you think?

November 15, 2007 at 6:45 pm
(4) Lauren Roberts says:

This was a very well written article. However, I have to disagree with this statement: “Don’t get the flu shot (or any vaccine) if you are taking Tysabri.” I have had 14 Tysabri infusions, and I have a flu shot every year. My doctors recommended it.
I also recently learned from a treating neurologist that is Touch Certified and infuses Tysabri in some of his patients, that he recommends a flu shot for all his MS patients, including his Tysabri patients, but he recommends that they get the shot 2 to 3 weeks after a Tysabri infusion as it is unclear whether or not Tysabri would have much effect on the ability to generate a good immune response to the vaccine.
There is no consensus about timing of the shot. In general, whether his patients are on one of the ABCRs, he wouldn’t recommend one near in time to an exacerbation and would not recommend one immediately after steroids.
Lastly, it is my understanding that Dr. Michael Panzara of Biogen (investigator in both the Affirm and Sentinel trials) had/has recommended a flu shot for all of his MS patients, including those on Tysabri therapy.
Each patient should check with their neurologist first. You provided an excellent article with the exception of the above. Lauren (MS patient for 31 plus years)

September 10, 2009 at 3:11 pm
(5) sandrar says:

Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. :) Cheers! Sandra. R.

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