5 things to know about the flu vaccine and MS
Getting vaccinated to prevent harmful infections is a fundamental part of medical care for people with MS. With flu season around the corner, the seasonal flu vaccine can help prevent infection and keep you and your loved ones safe.
Lisa Doggett, MD, MPH, is a family physician based in Austin, Texas, and senior medical director of HTS AxisPoint Health LLC. She was a 2021–22 vaccine science fellow with the American Academy of Family Physicians. Dr. Doggett, who has lived with MS since 2009, joined the Society for an Ask an MS Expert episode on vaccines and MS.
Here are five things she wants the MS community to know about the flu vaccine and MS.
1. Flu vaccine is safe for people living with MS
Keeping up to date on vaccinations is one of the most important things we can do for our health. It is safe for people living with MS to receive vaccines. In fact, it’s recommended that people with MS follow the standard vaccine schedule for their age.
Read more from the American Academy of Neurology on the research behind these recommendations. Always talk with your doctor about any medicines you take before receiving any vaccines.
2. People living with MS should get the flu vaccine every year
The flu causes tremendous problems for our healthcare system and can cause severe illness and death. Unless there’s a specific reason like an allergy, it’s recommended everyone get the flu vaccine each year. For most people, the best time to get it is September and October to make sure you’re protected throughout the flu season.
3. The nasal spray flu vaccine is different than the flu shot
The nasal spray flu vaccine is different from the shot. The nasal spray is a live vaccine. For people who are on certain disease-modifying therapies for their MS, you should not get live vaccines like the flu nasal spray.
4. The risk of illness from the flu is greater than getting the vaccine
The risk of illness from most vaccine-preventable infections is much greater than getting the vaccine. This is the case for both COVID-19 and flu vaccination.
For some people, such as women who are pregnant, the flu is more of a concern than for others because it can cause severe illness during pregnancy. The flu can also be harmful to an unborn baby.
Follow your doctor’s guidance; your doctor will know your medical history, medications and circumstances best and can help you weigh the risks and benefits.
5. You can get the flu and COVID-19 vaccine at the same time
It’s OK to get the flu and COVID-19 vaccine at the same time. They’re given in different arms, and there are no safety concerns about getting the COVID-19 and flu vaccine at the same visit or with other vaccines that you may need.
Editor’s note: Questions and answers have been edited for length and clarity.