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If You Have Multiple Sclerosis, Here’s What to Know About Flu Shots

The Centers for Disease Control recommends flu shots, but what do those with MS need to consider?

The start of flu season here in the United States is just a few weeks away. It’s time for my wife and me to get our flu shots, just as we have for as long as I can remember. My neurologist and our primary care physician both recommend the shot.

Many people, particularly those of us with MS, have questions or concerns about these shots. Each year I’ve found social media forums are filled with flu shot debates. Based on what I’ve seen, some of those debates are based on facts but others will be based on unsupported, or poorly supported, opinion. Let’s talk facts.

Types of flu shots

Three types of flu vaccines are available this flu season: inactivated influenza vaccine (IIV), recombinant influenza vaccine (RIV), and live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV), which is a nasal spray. But, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only two, IIV and RIV, are safe for people with MS.

That’s because LAIV nasal spray is a “live” vaccine which, the CDC says, should not be used by people whose have a neurologic disease or whose immune system is compromised “due to any cause,” nor by their caregivers.So, people with MS and their caregivers need to stay away from it.

The remaining two vaccine types are each available in two forms: trivalent and quadrivalent. The trivalent form, which is the traditional shot given with a needle into your arm, is designed to protect against three different flu viruses: two influenza A viruses (H1N1 and H3N2) and one influenza B virus. The quadrivalent flu vaccine is designed to protect against those three viruses plus a second type B virus.

Read on: If You Have Multiple Sclerosis, Here's What to Know About Flu Shots

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