Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a condition where your immune system attacks the protective myelin that coats nerve cells in your brain and spinal cord. It can lead to symptoms such as numbness and tingling, muscle weakness, and vision problems.

You may have questions about getting vaccines if you have Multiplesclerosis. It is possible that your medications may make vaccines less effective or that they may make your symptoms worse.

In this article, we discuss whether or not you should get the Tdap vaccine if you have multiplesclerosis, as well as general vaccine recommendations for people with the disease.

Most people with MS use disease-modifying therapies (DMTs). These are medications that dampen the effects of your immune system, helping to lower MS disease activity.

Because DMTs suppress your immune system, people with MS can be more vulnerable to infections. Contracting an infection can also trigger an MS flare. Because of this, vaccination is important for people with MS.

The Tdap vaccine protects against three potentially serious bacterial illnesses:

  • Tetanus (T): Tetanus, or lockjaw, causes painful stiffening of muscles throughout your body.
  • Diphtheria (d): Diphtheria leads to a membrane-like coating in your throat that can interfere with your breathing.
  • Pertussis (aP): Pertussis, which is also called whooping cough, can cause violent coughing fits that make it difficult to do things such as breathe, drink, or eat.

It’s OK to get the Tdap vaccine if you have MS. In fact, the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) recommends that people with MS follow standard vaccine guidelines unless there’s a specific reason not to (contraindication).

Potential side effects

The side effects of the Tdap vaccine are similar to those of other vaccines.

Will vaccinations increase the risk of an MS flare?

The AAN guidelines say that there’s no evidence that vaccination increases the risk of an MS flare. But they also note that studies in this area are still limited.

It is still important to talk with a doctor or healthcare professional before getting a vaccine. They can look at your medical history and recommend a time frame for getting your vaccine.

As we noted earlier, the AAN guidelines recommend that people with MS follow standard vaccine guidelines unless there’s a specific contraindication.

The chart below shows the current vaccine recommendations for adults in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Vaccine When it’s given How it’s given Other details to be aware of
Influenza (flu), inactivated or recombinant all ages 1 dose annually
Coronavirus disease 19 (COVID-19) all ages The up-to-date COVID-19 vaccine schedule can be found here. messenger RNA vaccines preferred
Tdap or tetanus and diphtheria (Td) all ages 1 dose Tdap, then Tdap or Td booster every 10 years initial Tdap dose often given in childhood
Measles mumps rubella ages 19–65 years 1 or 2 doses often given in childhood
Varicella (chickenpox) all ages 2 doses often given in childhood
Shingles ages 50 years and older 2 doses
Human papillomavirus ages 19–26 years 2 or 3 doses often given in adolescence, but can be given to those ages 27 to 45 after consulting with a doctor
Hepatitis B ages 19–59 years 2 or 3 doses often given in childhood
Pneumococcal vaccine ages 65 years and older 1 or 2 doses either 1 dose 15-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) followed by 23-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine or 1 dose PCV20
Hepatitis A all ages 2 or 3 doses recommended for travel to areas where hepatitis A is common
Meningococcal vaccine all ages 1 or 2 doses recommended for travel to areas where meningococcal disease is common

It is important to know your medications when scheduling your vaccinations. People with Multiplesclerosis using DMTs can have a weakened immune system.

“Live-attenuated vaccines aren’t typically given while you’re on DMTs Live vaccines can cause problems for people with weak immune systems because they contain weakened germ.”

Live-attenuated vaccines include:

Additionally, some DMTs may lower the effectiveness of certain vaccines. As such, discuss your MS medications with a doctor prior to scheduling vaccinations. They can recommend an optimal timeframe for them.

“Let’s look at the answers to some remaining questions about vaccines and the Multiplesclerosis.”

Should you delay getting a vaccine if you’re having an MS flare?

Yes. Both the AAN guidelines and the National MS Society recommend delaying vaccination if you’re having an MS flare.

You should wait to get your vaccine until your symptoms are gone or you are no longer getting worse.

Which COVID-19 vaccine is best if you have MS?

Although the CDC says that you may choose any of the three coronavirus disease 19 (COVID-19) vaccines in use in the United States, they note that messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines are preferred over the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) adenoviral vector vaccine.

This recommendation was made after a review of the data on the safety and effectiveness of the J&J vaccine. Overall, the mRNA vaccines have a better safety profile and are more effective than the J&J vaccine.

mRNA vaccines are those produced by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

Are there any vaccines linked to MS?

Some may have concerns that vaccination may act as a trigger for MS. But recent studies, such as this 2019 study, have found that vaccines aren’t associated with an increased risk of developing MS.

In fact, some vaccines may have a protective effect against MS. A 2021 review notes that several studies have found that receiving a tetanus vaccination, which is included in the Tdap vaccine, is associated with a decreased risk of MS.

The Tdap vaccine protects against three different types of infections. People with multiplesclerosis can receive the vaccine.

People with Multiplesclerosis are more vulnerable to infections because of the weakened immune system that DMTs can cause. Infections are a potential cause of flares.

The AAN recommends that people with MS stick to a standard vaccine schedule.

You should consult with a doctor before scheduling vaccine appointments. They can review your medical history and your medications to find out which vaccines are recommended and the best time to get them in.