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Vaccines and Multiple Sclerosis

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By Cherie C. Binns RN BS MSCN

 

It has come to my attention during the past week that three women who look to me (and the networks with which I am connected) have been advised to get the Shingles Vaccine.   All are over 50.   All have had chickenpox.  All have Multiple Sclerosis.

The shingles vaccine is a live virus and, as such, can create problems including a case of the illness it is designed to prevent in persons with compromised Immune Systems.  In General the National Institutes of Health have deemed it safe for people with Multiple Sclerosis to receive certain vaccines that are not live cells of the disease against which the person is being vaccinated.   Influenza vaccine is a good example of this.   The injectable vaccine is not live virus and, as such, is deemed to be safe for the majority of persons with Multiple Sclerosis.   The exception to this might be if you are on a medication regimen which significantly lowers your white blood cell count (the cells that help fight infection) such as Novantrone, Cytoxan or the new oral medication Gilenya.   Please check with your physician and take into account what your white cell counts are before making a decision to be vaccinated against any illness.

If you or your Dr. have any doubts as to which vaccines might be safe to take while being treated for Multiple Sclerosis, you might find this website from the National Institutes of Health to be helpful in coming to a decision.

http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/vaccines/understanding/pages/typesvaccines.aspx

The nasal spray flu vaccine is not thought to be safe because it contains live (attenuated) virus.   The same holds true for the Shingles vaccine and the Yellow Fever Vaccine (if you are planning on traveling to a third world country).

 

Be well and carefully educate yourself on any vaccine you are being asked to take.

 

Written at the request of MS Views and News December 12, 2013

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