Flu shots and autoimmune diseases

Perhaps some medical (wo)man can answer this question. I have a firend who has a very mild case of ms. She has had two or three attacks over the last 15 years, one of which involved complete paralysis for several weeks, but currently is in total remission for several years. She is in her early 60s and when I asked her if she was getting a flu shot she said no, because ms is an autoimmune disease and she is afraid that stirring up her immune system could precipitate an attack. My attitude is that flu would stir up her immune system even more. On the other hand, not getting flu is even better. The current vaccine is made from only a fragment of the virus, according to the doctor who gave me my shot.

Any thoughts on this?


I don’t know about your friend, but some people are on immunosuppressants to keep themselves on an even keel. Vaccinations while on an immunosuppressant is not suggested.

I don’t personally have MS, but I do have Crohn’s disease, autoimmune hepatitis, and PSC, and was told to avoid vaccinations because I am on prednisone and azathioprine.

Actually, libwen it is recommended that immunosuppressed people get the inactivated flu shot. The worst that can happen is that they don’t for antibodies to the influenza virus. Then they’re no worse off than if they didn’t get it.

As a general rule, they are in Category 1 High Priority designates for the vaccine.

From the World Health Organization influenza guidelines.

Of course you should follow your physician’s directions regarding your specific healthcare.

But as a general principle, the immunosuppressed need their immunizations.


Okay, Qadgop, thanks for correcting me. It was my understanding that people on prednisone, in particular, should not have vaccinations (based on my own reading), and my local G.I. doctor told me to avoid the flu shot. But I understand that others’ situations are not my situation, and based on your information, I say that Hari Seldon’s friend should probably get the shot. I was just trying to think of a reason why she may not want one.

Thanks again.:slight_smile:

There doesn’t seem to be any contraindication to the shot, which uses dead virus, and if she wants to see an immune system in action she can wait till she gets the flu. OTOH, the injections is only 70% effective, as often as not simply lessens the symptoms, rather than totally stopping the infection. And that is only if they guess correctly as to which strain will infect the US, something they do not always do. Bottom line is the shot will almost certainly be harmless to her, and may stop or lessen the severity of influenza should she become infected.

I don’t believe what you’re saying is correct.

Vaccines can be divided into 2 general categories: live vaccine and dead. Live vaccines contain attenuated strains of the infections agent to which protective immunity is desired. Dead vaccines contain parts of the infectious agents. Immunization promotes a response to the parts that can inhibit infection later with the live organism

Whether or not someone on immunosupression should be vaccinated depends entriely on whether we’re discussing live or dead vaccines. Live vaccines are generally contraindicated as the decreased ability of an immunosuppressed host to mount and anti-vaccine response sometimes causes big problems. Dead vaccines are very good to have if you’re immunosuppressed since they have little chance of harming you and may afford you more protection should you come up against the actual infectious agent.

Common examples of live vaccines are MMR, oral polio, small pox.

Common examples of dead vaccines are DPT, HepB, VZV, pneumovax, influenza, haemophilus.

Both the influenza and pneumovax vaccines are highly recommended for adults with decreased immunity or diminished reserve.
The quote below is from this link

… Which made me wonder - would the flu shot I had here in the UK be the same as that given to people in the US, or would it vary by country … i.e. would different strains of flu be “predicted” in different parts of the world?


As I thought I had made clear, not only does the vaccine (at least the one I got) made from dead virus, it is actually made from only a fragment of the virus. I guess my real point, which I didn’t say, is that people have a thousand and one excuses for not getting vaccinated.

I just read (in the New York Science Times from last Tuesday) that 36,000 people in the US die from flu and complications in the average year, mostly the very old, to be sure.

The book in which I originally got the information about immunizations was Complete Guide to Prescription & Nonprescription Drugs by H. Griffith Winter, but it was a 1990 edition. I wonder if they hadn’t done all the testing as to the different types of vaccinations, because he didn’t differentiate. My intention was not to confuse the issue, so I’m just going to shut up now.

re OP
You are not supposed to get a flu shot if you are allegric to eggs or Have a history of Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS).

The vaccine is developed in four World Health Organization (WHO) reference labs, one of which is at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta.


Shrinking Violet
The vaccinre in the US is based on research on the type of flu circulating in the World at that time, as reported by the World Health Organization. The US goes with WHO – indeed the US develops the vaccine at CDC which is one of 4 WHO designated labs to do so-- it is really the most logical way to decide what strains to vaccinate against – but I suppose the UK could opt out of certain strains – or add strains … but they probably would not be doing so on a purely scientific basis