COVID-19 Vaccine Gets Thumbs-up from National MS Society

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by Ed Tobias |

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The advice issued Tuesday by the U.S.-based National Multiple Sclerosis Society about COVID-19 vaccination couldn’t be clearer: “Get your vaccine as soon as it is available to you.”

New MS Society guidelines say that the two COVID-19 vaccines currently available in the U.S., both of which use an mRNA model, are “safe and effective.” The risk of contracting severe COVID-19 far outweighs any potential vaccination risks, they added. The two mRNA-based vaccines currently available in the U.S. are made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

The guidelines state that COVID-19 vaccines are safe for people with all forms of MS. They’re particularly important for older people with MS, people with progressive MS, those with a high level of physical disability, those with certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, or heart and lung disease, pregnant women, and Black and Hispanic populations.

COVID-19 vaccine FAQs

Are the mRNA vaccines “live” vaccines?

No, and they will not cause COVID-19.

Will the vaccines cause a relapse or increase your symptoms?

It’s unlikely. The vaccines might cause a fever, which may exacerbate some MS symptoms, but symptoms should ease when the fever is reduced.

How will the vaccine affect my disease-modifying therapy (DMT), and vice-versa?

The National MS Society recommends continuing your DMT unless your healthcare provider says otherwise. Some DMTs may make the vaccine less effective, but it will still provide some protection.

If you’re being treated with Kesimpta (ofatumumab), Lemtrada (alemtuzumab), Mavenclad (cladribine), Ocrevus (ocrelizumab), or Rituxan (rituximab), you may need to coordinate the timing of your vaccine with the timing of your DMT dose.

The recommendations were created by a group of 11 MS experts and are endorsed by the Consortium of MS Centers, along with 10 other MS organizations. They follow, by about a month, similar recommendations issued by the U.K.’s MS Society.

Are you ready to get a vaccine?

I wrote an “MS Wire” column detailing the U.K. guidelines last month. More than 65 people have commented on that column, and most can’t wait to receive a vaccine. They understand that, as the new National MS Society recommendations state, “vaccination against COVID-19 is critical for public safety and, especially, the safety of the most vulnerable among us.”

Yet, a handful of commenters wrote things like, “I am not sure if I will take it even if my doctor recommends this because it scares me that vaccine was made so fast also I heard several doctors state they will not know how long this vaccines lasts and if it will keep people from getting the virus.”

I’ve always believed that treatment decisions are individual and best made as a collaboration between patient and doctor. I continue to believe this. But I hope the MS Society’s statements that the COVID-19 vaccine is “safe and effective” and “critical for public safety” will weigh heavily in your decision. I hope you will follow their advice to get one “as soon as it is available to you.”

I know I will.

You’re invited 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, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.

Comments

john wiggers avatar

john wiggers

What kind of period should I maintain, what is your advice on using Ocrevus. My last IV was at the end of December 2020.

kind regards john wiggers

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Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi John,

As the NMSS recommendations indicate, someone being treated with Ocrevus should coordinate with his neurologist. Your doctor may want to modify your treatment schedule so that both treatments are the most effective they can be.

Ed

Reply
Nickolas avatar

Nickolas

A frient of mine started natalizumab (Tysabri) therapy for RRMS in December 2020. Shall he consider Covid-19 vaccination asap ?

Reply
Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Nickolas,

You can read the recommendations regarding various medications in my column, or in its links. I can't tell you what your friend should do. He should ask his doctor because only his doctor knows the specifics of his condition.

Ed

Reply
Susan Yonkin avatar

Susan Yonkin

I had my first COVID vaccine yesterday 1-29-20. “Pfizer” I am currently on Ocrevus my last infusion was in August. After my shot I had a full active day. I had a little bit of fatigue but not enough to slow me down. I was on my feet and stayed busy all day. I am 58 yrs old I was diagnosed in 2009. I stayed hydrated before and after my vaccine shot

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Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Thanks for sharing that, Susan. I'm sure it's very useful to all of us who have not yet had the vaccine. Please update us on how things went when you've received #2.

Stay well,

Ed

Reply
Cal avatar

Cal

Had my Pfizer vaccine 5 days go and now feel dizzy pain and few other symptoms going for my Tysabri infusion on th 26 of February.

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Cheryl Johnson avatar

Cheryl Johnson

My 39 year old daughter has been on Tysabri for 5 years. No relapse.
She got her 2 Covd vaccine two weeks ago. Her infusion 3 days ago . Fine until today, now she is in full relapse. Any suggestions?
If we go for steroid infusion now afraid of the outcome.
She only got the vaccine because of her Nursing school requirement . She had COVID 19 virus in December and recorded fine .

Reply
Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Cheryl,

I'm not a healthcare professional so I don't have a suggestion other than to contact your daughter's neurologist. My thought as someone with MS is that it's likely that her second vaccine caused a fever, which isn't unusual. The fever then caused the relapse, as they frequently do. If that's the case, has she tried to reduce the fever with something like Tylenol?

It seems to me that treating her exacerbated MS symptoms with steroids, which is a normal treatment for a true relapse (defined as one that lasts more than 48 hours and fails to respond to a fever reduction) would be appropriate. But, again, that's something to discuss with her neuro.

Ed

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Leanne Broughton avatar

Leanne Broughton

I am in Canada so a little slower in vaccines. There are now 2 new vaccines on offer-Astrazeneca and Johnson and Johnsons. Are they also MnRA rather than live and safe for those with MS? I realize you are not an MS physician but you are in the know.

Reply
Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Leanne,

The J&J vaccine are both viral vector vaccines. They use a weakened version of a virus – but it’s not the SARS-CoV-2 virus – to generate immunity. AstraZeuses a harmless version of a virus that causes the common cold in chimpanzees. I'm not sure whether J&J uses the same, but you should be able to find that out on their website.

Good luck. My wife and I had shot #2 of the Moderna vaccine today. So far, so good six hours after our shots.

Ed

Reply
Savella avatar

Savella

Hi, Cheryl!

Im sorry to hear your daughter is having a relapse.

My mom has been on Tysabri since 2011 and she is considering receiving the COVID vaccine. I am fearful because I am not aware of any studies conducted with Tysabri patients and the COVID vaccine. She's has Progressive MS and is primarily bed-ridden and often suffers from recurring UTIs and recently a kidney infection. Her PCM is telling her it's fine to get the vaccine as long as she waits 10 days after Tysabri treatment. Was your daughter told the same?

Reply
Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Savella,

The latest advice from the National MS Society about people being treated with Tysabri, and similar DMTs, is: "Do not delay starting one of these medicines for your vaccine injection. If you are already taking one of these DMTs, no adjustments of your DMT administration are recommended."

Here's a link to NMSS' guidelines for COVID-19 vaccines and all of the DMTs: https://www.nationalmssociety.org/coronavirus-covid-19-information/multiple-sclerosis-and-coronavirus/covid-19-vaccine-guidance/Timing-MS-Medications-with-COVID-19-Vaccines

I hope this information helps,

Ed

Reply
Maria Alves avatar

Maria Alves

My mother was diagnosed with MS in 2002 (probably had it since 1998). She's been on Tysabri for over 10 years now. She received her first Pfizer shot at the end of Jan. 2021 and her second in mid-Feb. 2021. Both times her only reaction was a little bit out of breath a few hours after the injection, she sat by an open window, it lasted about 30 minutes. The injection itself did not hurt, nor did she have a sore arm.

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