Flu Shot or No Flu Shot for MS Patients?

Flu Shot or No Flu Shot for MS Patients?

It’s that time of year again. The time of year where I keep seeing posts on MS social media posts asking, “should I get a flu shot?”

In my honest opinion, yes, definitely! There are certainly different opinions about this, but I think that my opinion is the same as that of nearly any doctor that you’ll ask. For example, here’s a what a couple of doctors have to say in a U.S. News and World Report article that’s specifically about MS and the flu:

Dr. Robert Shin, director of the Georgetown Multiple Sclerosis and Neuroimmunology Center: “The flu infection may stimulate the immune system, which may in turn trigger an MS attack.” Shin says that getting the flu, or any illness, raises that chance that you’ll have a relapse or a worsening of your symptoms.

Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease specialist with the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security: “When you see flu outbreaks, you see MS relapses.” 

If you just think about what happens to your body in hot weather, or when you have a fever, then the flu-MS connection should be clear.

The flu shot doesn’t give you the flu

Are you worried that getting a flu shot can give you the flu, or make you sick with something else? Doctors say don’t be. The flu shot uses a killed virus to protect you against the flu. So it’s highly unlikely that the vaccine will give you the flu. In fact, Dr. Shin says “infection really is impossible.”

On the other hand, the nasal flu vaccine is created from a live virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends against anyone using the nasal vaccine, because there are concerns about its effectiveness.

Since the flu vaccine takes about two weeks to become fully effective, it’s possible that some people who’ve had a shot will still get the flu. There have also been some years where the vaccine hasn’t been a good match for the strain of flu that was prevalent in those years. This may lead some people to believe that the shot gave them the flu when, in fact, it didn’t. It just, for whatever reason, failed to protect them from catching it.

For a lot more detail…

Here are a few places where you can obtain more information:

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

National Multiple Sclerosis Society

A “STAT News” story, with an international overview

Of course, you should always check with your own doctor.

My wife and I got our flu shots over a month ago, just as we’ve been getting them for many years. Neither of us has ever had a problem.

(I invite you to follow my personal blog at: www.themswire.com)


Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.


  1. Jan says:

    I just got my second-ever flu shot this week, along with a shingles vaccine. After getting an okay from my neuro, it seemed like the right move. Husband has shingles now and I didn’t want to risk activating my SPMS.

  2. ayale88 says:

    I have had quite the opposite experience with flu shots. I have been told for many years not to get the flu shot since I was diagnosed in 2001. The story then changed with my neurologist and I received a flu shot in 2013 and had a relapse and was hospitalized within weeks. My neurologist thought it may have been a coincidence and encouraged me again in 2014 to get another flu shot. The same series of events followed and I relapsed once again with another hospitalization but now with further disability. I was told at that time that since I had no relapses during the 12 years I didn’t have a flu shot and didn’t experience any relapses to now once again avoid the flu shot. I was told this was an “auto-immune response” and not to further take a chance with my health.

  3. william nye says:

    well, I got the flu shot this year and that night and for the next 3 days I suffered a fever which allowed me to fall and hurt myself, become uncoordinated and to generally feel lousy. Not me!

  4. Marc Sable says:

    My Neurologist of 12 years told me not to get the Flu shot. He said why would I add a foreign agent to an already compromised immune system. I’ve never had the shot and never had the Flu, just lucky I guess.

  5. Tim says:

    My Doctors, both PCP and Neuro both highly recommend I get one. I never really got the flu much, but I figure that anything I can do to help keep my Immune System from having to ramp up to much is a good thing.

  6. I started getting flu shots every year as a child in the early 1960’s and have never had even the slightest problem with them.

    When I was working in a family practice office, my coworkers all got the flu itself every single year and missed at least a week of work each. But I opted for the vaccine instead and never got the full-blown flu, except for one year when I was EXTREMELY ill for a matter of HOURS one day, then I was perfectly fine again.

    I realize that there’s a small chance that taking ANY vaccine could cause a relapse, especially if it happens early in the course of your MS, but getting the actual FLU would be MUCH more likely to trigger a relapse. The flu is a nightmare so I’ll always opt for the shot. I’m grateful that I can take it with no worries.

  7. Jonah says:

    I never had the flu before…I got a flu shot at age 26 and got extremely ill with the flu immediatley. Never got one since and never had the flu since either. I am now 59 years old living with MS.

  8. Wendy says:

    I believe my two main relapses were due to my immune system’s response to injections I received. Both relapses caused permanent damage, so I don’t get any shots that aren’t absolutely necessary.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *