New guidelines released by the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) recommend that patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) should get routine vaccinations, including annual influenza vaccinations. Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that can affect a person’s brain, optic nerves and spinal cord. Patients with MS often experience muscle weakness and have difficulty with balance and coordination.1 2
According to AAN member and guideline lead author Mauricio Farez, MD, MPH of the FLENI Institution in Buenos Aires: “We reviewed all of the available evidence, and for people with MS, preventing infections through vaccine use is a key part of medical care. People with MS should feel safe and comfortable getting their recommended vaccinations.”3
Even though the AAN is recommending routine vaccinations for patients with MS, the guideline specifically acknowledges that some vaccines might not work well enough to prevent infection for some patients with MS who take certain MS medications or whether vaccination will worsen MS flares. Dr. Farez reinforces this noting, “Still, experts in MS urge their patients to hold off on scheduling their vaccinations if they are having an MS flare simply to avoid the potential for any complications.”3
It is worth noting that a report on the AAN guidelines states that Dr. Farez, who is the lead author of the guidelines, has received funding for travel from pharmaceutical companies Teva Argentina, Novartis Argentina and Merck Serono Argentina and received research support from biotechnology firm Biogen Idec of Cambridge, Massachusetts.4
The report also acknowledges that the second author of the guidelines, Jorge Correale, MD, is a member of the scientific advisory boards of pharmaceuticals Merck Serono LATAM, Novartis Argentina, Genzyme Argentina and Genzyme Global and has received funding for travel from Merck Serono Argentina.4
1 Wexler M. New AAN Guidelines Favor Regular Vaccinations, Including Flu Shots, for MS Patients. Multiple Sclerosis News Today Aug. 30, 2019.
2 American Academy of Neurology. AAN ISSUES GUIDELINE ON VACCINES AND MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS. AAN.com Aug. 28, 2019.
3 Brooks M. New AAN Guideline Backs Routine Vaccinations in MS. Medscape Aug. 29, 2019.
4 Farez MF et al. Practice guideline update summary: Vaccine preventable infections and immunization in multiple sclerosis. Neurology 2019; 93: 1-11.