The flu is hitting the Houston area particularly hard this year with many reported cases of H1N1 and several confirmed deaths in the recent weeks. This has sent folks into a panic, it seems. The debates over the safety and the benefits (or lack there of) of the current vaccine are being waged on the news and in social media. Here are the most recent recommendations from the National MS Society regarding the Flu Vaccine:
- The 2013-2014 seasonal influenza (flu) immunization is a single preparation that provides immunity to three different flu virus strains. It contains anH3N2 virus, an influenza B virus and this year’s H1N1 virus, which means that only one ‘shot’ is needed.
- The injectable flu vaccine, which is an ‘inactivated’ vaccine, is recommended for everyone over 6 months of age. It has been studied extensively in people with MS and is considered quite safe. The injectable flu vaccine may be taken by people who are taking an interferon medication, glatiramer acetate, mitoxantrone, natalizumab, fingolimod, teriflunomide, or dimethyl fumarate. Although there were early concerns that the vaccine might not be as effective in people taking natalizumab or fingolimod, data (Vagberg et al., 2012; Mehling et al., 2011) suggest that people taking those medications do mount an effective immune response to the vaccine. A recent study (Bar-Or et al., 2013) also confirmed the effectiveness of the vaccine in people taking teriflunomide. No similar study has been done to date with dimethyl fumarate; however, there is nothing about its mechanism of action that would interfere with the efficacy of the vaccine.
- People who are experiencing a serious relapse that affects their ability to carry out activities of daily living should defer vaccination until 4-6 weeks after the onset of the relapse.
- FluMist® is a live-virus flu vaccine(sometimes called LAIV for "live attenuated influenza vaccine”) that is delivered via a nasal spray. This live-virus vaccine is not recommended for people with MS. Live, attenuated vaccines are those whose biological activity has been reduced so that their ability to cause disease has been weakened but not totally inactivated.
- A high-dose flu vaccine is available for people over age 65. This high-dose vaccine has not been studied in people with MS of any age. At present, the Centers for Disease Control is not recommending the high-dose vaccine over the seasonal flu vaccine for the general population.
Additional information about flu can be found at:
If you have any questions about the flu vaccine, contact the Society's Information Resource Center at 1-800-344-4867.