Most researchers and national organizations recommend that people living with multiple sclerosis (MS) get all the recommended vaccinations. However, these individuals should seek the advice of a doctor first, as it may sometimes be necessary to pause MS medications before getting certain vaccinations.

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People living with MS often need to take special precautions regarding their health. As a result, when it comes to vaccinations, a person with MS will need to know when to get a vaccine, whether it is generally safe, and how likely it will be to cause their condition to worsen.

According to the American Academy of Neurology (AAN), a person living with MS should get vaccinations as part of staying healthy. The AAN recommends following the current recommendations and guidelines but notes the importance of discussing vaccines with a doctor before receiving them.

This article reviews the safety considerations regarding vaccines for people living with MS.

The National Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society strongly recommends that anyone living with MS get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible. It notes that research has shown this vaccination to be safe and effective in preventing the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The society also notes that it will update its guidance on the vaccination as more evidence of how it affects people living with MS becomes available. For now, existing research suggests that the vaccination is safe and effective for people living with MS.

Learn more about MS and the COVID-19 vaccine here.

Research shows that the flu, or influenza, vaccination provides protection against seasonal flu. However, there are some exceptions.

The flu vaccination comes in two forms: inactivated and live. Healthcare staff members administer the inactivated version via a shot in the arm, while people can take the live version in the form of a nasal spray.

A person living with MS should not get the live version. The National MS Society also notes that a person should not get the nasal spray while they are taking disease-modifying therapies (DMTs).

The AAN advises that people with MS receive the flu vaccine every year.

Learn about the potential side effects of the flu vaccine.

A person should talk with a doctor about the best time for them to get the flu shot and whether and when they need to stop their medication.

Learn about the pros and cons of the flu vaccine.

The HPV vaccine can help prevent the most dangerous cases of HPV, which is the most common type of sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the United States. HPV can lead to certain cancers, such as cervical cancer.

Doctors recommend that a person receive this vaccine between the ages of 9 and 26 years, although some people may receive it later.

Although some research has indicated that the HPV vaccination may cause MS, a more recent review of several studies revealed no significant association.

Learn more about Gardasil 9, the HPV vaccine.

Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) is a live attenuated strain of M. bovis bacteria. M. bovis is a type of tuberculosis that typically affects cattle, but it can also infect humans.

According to a 2017 review, BCG vaccination may also be an effective therapy for slowing the progression of MS. The researchers also noted that other studies suggest that the BCG vaccination may help with preventing MS in people at risk, but additional research is necessary to prove its preventive effect and better understand its therapeutic effect.

The hepatitis B vaccine helps prevent this liver infection.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), earlier studies raised concerns that hepatitis B vaccination may cause MS to develop in some people. However, the organization noted that current research shows that this vaccine has no link with the development of MS. It also does not cause the symptoms of the disease to worsen.

Learn more about the possible side effects of the hepatitis B vaccine.

The CDC recommends that all people over the age of 9 months get the yellow fever vaccination if they live in or plan to travel to high risk areas in South America or Africa. Most people only need a single dose, but a booster may be necessary in some cases.

Although the vaccine can cause some side effects, the CDC does not list MS as a risk factor for developing a reaction. Also, a 2020 study showed no association between yellow fever vaccination and MS, including that this preventive treatment does not cause worsening symptoms.

Learn more about the yellow fever vaccine.

There is limited evidence on how exactly some other vaccinations affect people living with MS. However, despite the lack of studies, the National MS Society still recommends that people get the following vaccinations:

  • Pneumococcal vaccines: Researchers recommend these vaccines for anyone over the age of 65 years and those living with MS who have an increased risk of lung infections.
  • Varicella (chickenpox) vaccines: Researchers recommend these vaccines for anyone who is starting a new MS medication and does not know whether they have had previous chickenpox exposure.
  • Smallpox vaccines: There have been no extensive studies of the smallpox vaccine in people living with MS, but experts recommend this vaccination in areas where an outbreak has occurred.
  • Shingles vaccines: Researchers recommend two doses of the Shingrix vaccine for people over the age of 50 years. There is no evidence to suggest that it would negatively affect a person living with MS.

Currently, there is no vaccination to prevent MS. However, researchers are working to develop one.

After partnering with Pfizer to help develop an mRNA vaccination for COVID-19, a German company called BioNTech recently tested an MS vaccine on mice. The scientists found in their study that the vaccination halted the progression of MS. Though the research gives reason to be hopeful, a lot more testing is necessary before a vaccine for MS becomes available for humans.

According to a review of studies, BCG vaccination may help prevent symptoms of MS from getting worse. It is unclear, however, whether it can help prevent MS from occurring in high risk populations.

Several studies have examined whether various vaccinations can cause MS.

For example, according to a 2016 systemic review, previous studies on the flu shot causing MS showed no association between this vaccination and the onset of MS.

A 2018 review showed that there is no connection between the HPV vaccination and MS. However, the authors did note that the reviewed studies had low statistical value due to the rarity of MS cases.

In short, earlier studies showed potential links between certain vaccinations and MS, but current studies show that no vaccinations will cause MS.

People living with MS should consider getting all the vaccinations that experts recommend for people of their age, taking any other risk factors into account. However, they should talk with a doctor before getting a vaccination in case they will need to pause their MS medication.

Vaccinations are generally safe and effective for people living with MS. Evidence that vaccinations cause or worsen MS is generally lacking.