UPDATE: There have been some changes in the recommendations for FluMist and people with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 2010. Looks like MS is no longer a contraindication for getting vaccinated with FluMist, although I have had a hard time finding specific current information about people on certain drugs, like Tysabri, Solu-Medrol and the chemo-based therapies. I write about my findings in my recent blog, FluMist and Multiple Sclerosis Update and True Confession.
I am leaving the original post from September 2009 intact below, but wanted to clarify one thing: despite my saying that there was a risk of developing "influenza from FluMist," this is inaccurate. The virus is weakened to the point of making this impossible, but people can develop symptoms that are flu-like (runny nose, headache, coughing), but not as severe as those caused by true influenza.
ORIGINAL POST: Most doctors and experts (and me, for whatever that's worth) recommend that anyone with multiple sclerosis (MS) gets a seasonal flu shot. Influenza (the "flu") is usually accompanied by high fevers and high fevers and infections can lead to relapses and/or increased symptoms and disability.
I'm sorry to say, however, that those of us with MS should NOT get their flu vaccine in the form of FluMist, the nasal flu vaccine spray. FluMist is a live-virus vaccine, which uses an attenuated form of the flu virus - in fact, the generic name of FluMist is LAIV (Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine). People with MS that are on immunosuppressants, such as corticosteroids (Solu-Medrol) or Tysabri, or any of the immunoglobulin preparations (such as IVIG), are especially susceptible to developing influenza from FluMist. However, it is recommended that no one with MS (regardless of which medications they are on) gets FluMist, just to be sure. In fact, if you want to be extra cautious, it may be wise to ensure that the people in your family receive the shot, rather than FluMist, although some docs will say this is probably an unnecessary precaution.
For the sake of clarity, the "flu shot" is made of inactivated, or killed, virus, so poses no danger of infection (despite wild claims from many people that the shot "gave them the flu").
Oh, and for anyone interested (I was): No, the seasonal flu shot does NOT protect against HINI (otherwise known as Swine Flu) and neither does FluMist, for that matter. At this point, it looks like the HINI vaccines will all be inactivated virus vaccines, therefore safe for people with MS. Whether the HINI is specifically recommended for people with MS has not been specifically mentioned, as far as I know. I will keep you posted on this.
Read the full articles:
- Should I Get the Flu Shot if I Have MS?
- Do Vaccines Cause Multiple Sclerosis? (including vaccine recommendations for people living with MS)