Regular flu shot: As in previous years, the National MS Society recommends a regular flu shot as a safe and effective vaccination for people with MS. The flu shot—which is a de-activated or “killed” vaccine—can safely be taken by individuals who are on any of the disease-modifying medications (Avonex®, Betaseron®, Copaxone®, Rebif®, Novantrone®, or Tysabri®).
FluMist Intranasal®: In 2003, the FDA approved a flu vaccine nasal spray “for healthy children and adolescents, ages 5-17, and healthy adults, ages 18-49.” According to Dr. Aaron Miller, the Society’s Chief Medical Officer, FluMist—which is a live, weakened vaccine—is not recommended for use by people with MS, and should specifically be avoided by any person with MS who is on an immunosuppressive medication such as mitoxantrone (Novantrone®), cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan®), azathioprine (Imuran®), or methotrexate.
Live-virus vaccines are more likely than de-activated-virus vaccines to cause an increase in disease activity in people with MS.
A person taking an immunosuppressive medication is more susceptible to developing an infection with the vaccine strain of the virus—an infection that may be particularly severe because the person’s immune system is suppressed.
The interactions between live vaccines and the disease-modifying medications are not known.
H1N1 (Swine Flu) vaccine: The H1N1 (Swine Flu) vaccine is still in production, so its safety and efficacy have not yet been established.