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Flu Vaccine and H1N1 (Swine Flu) Vaccine Information

Posted Aug 25 2009 7:28pm

Flu Vaccine and H1N1 (Swine Flu) Vaccine Information for 2009-2010

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 medication (Avonex®, Betaseron®, Copaxone®, Rebif®, 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.

We currently have no safety data for FluMist in MS. However, we do know that live-virus vaccines are more likely than de-activated-virus vaccines to cause an increase in disease activity in people with MS, particularly in anyone whose immune system is suppressed. In addition, 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. It is anticipated that the vaccine will be available in the fall of 2009, probably in October. When it becomes available, the recommendations for its use in people with MS will likely be the same as the recommendations for the regular flu vaccine. If a live, attenuated version of the H1N1 vaccine is also produced, it should be avoided by individuals with MS.

In summary, therefore, people with MS should consult with their physician about obtaining a regular flu shot and a H1N1 (Swine Flu) vaccination as soon as they are available. We will update this Web site when new information is forthcoming. The FluMist nasal spray vaccine and any live, attenuated version of the H1N1 (if one is produced) are not recommended for people with MS.
You can read information from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) about the regular flu vaccine and the H1N1 vaccine.

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