The American Academy of Neurology (AAN), the world’s largest association of neurologists and neuroscience professionals, has updated its 2002 guidelines regarding immunizations for people with multiple sclerosis (MS). The new guidelines, published in the August 28, 2019, issue of the journal Neurology, recommend that people with MS receive appropriate vaccinations, including an annual flu vaccine.
“We reviewed all of the available evidence, and for people with MS, preventing infections through vaccine use is a key part of medical care,” states lead guideline author Mauricio F. Farez, MD, MPH, of the Fleni Institution in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and a member of the American Academy of Neurology.
Vaccines Protect People With MS From Opportunistic Diseases
Dr. Farez notes that vaccines are important in people with MS for three reasons:
- Immunizations protect against sometimes deadly diseases and are needed according to each country’s disease distribution and policies.
- People with MS may take drugs that lower the ability of the body to fight infections, thus they are at greater risk of having a complication related to an otherwise vaccine-preventable disease.
- There is some evidence that infections can trigger disease activity, and “thus by avoiding them with vaccines, we are somehow avoiding potential relapses,” he says.
Update Needed From 2002 AAN Guidelines
The first version of these guidelines was published in 2002. Back then, several gaps in knowledge were identified, as there was not a lot of information for many vaccines, says Farez.
“Since then, new and complex treatments were approved for MS patients. We felt it was time to give doctors and patients updated recommendations. In terms of vaccine skipping, I think what’s important to remember is that doctors and patients should discuss about vaccines at the very beginning of the diagnostic process. This is important so that MS patients feel safe and comfortable getting their recommended vaccinations after understanding that preventing infections through vaccine use is a key part of medical care,” Farez says.