Vaccines and MS

Each year in the fall I write a column on the flu vaccine and why we really should consider taking it for our own health. Just a couple years ago I skipped my flu shot, and in late January I was sick as a dog from the flu. I swore never again would I skip a vaccine.

The COVID-19 vaccine

Fast forward to the present day and I look forward to the chance to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Just like the year I got really ill with the flu because I wasn’t vaccinated, this time I contracted COVID but it was much worse. I was hospitalized for 13 long days and took even more time to fully recover. In all, COVID took 3 months of my life because all I could do while recovering was rest and sleep. It’s an experience I never want to have again, and I’m anxious to get my COVID-19 vaccine and any extra protection it might offer.

Is the vaccine safe for people with MS?

The National MS Society has consulted with an expert group of neurologists who specialize in multiple sclerosis, and have come to the same conclusion – we should get the vaccine. Even if we have MS. In COVID-19 Vaccine Guidance for People Living with MS the experts state without hesitation that people with MS should get vaccinated. I encourage everyone to read this brief report.

The potential side effects

The COVID-19 vaccines available right now do not contain any live virus, so they don’t pose a risk of causing an MS relapse. Yes, it’s likely you will have a sore arm at the injection site, and a few people even have a worse reaction and feel ill for a few days. Just like with MS, each person is different in how they will react. However, from my own experience with COVID-19, having a quick jab in my arm is much better than having all sorts of needle stabs, blood draws and IV lines I had in the hospital. Any discomfort I might feel from the vaccine as a side effect won’t be worse than the discomfort I had in the hospital and being so deathly ill with the virus.

Current research shows no greater risk for people with MS

The good news from the research the National MS Society has completed shows that people with multiple sclerosis have no greater risk of contracting COVID-19 than our peers. They continue to participate in COViMS (COvid Infections in MS), an ongoing data collection and study in partnership with the Canadian MS Society and the Consortium for MS Centers. Doctors who have treated people with COVID-19 who also have MS can enter details about the experience with the virus. All of the data is public and you can review the current data if you like to read research numbers.

Vaccines protect us and our loved ones

After seeing the devastation COVID-19 has created in this country and around the world, I couldn’t possibly skip the opportunity to do my part and opt-out of being vaccinated. Getting vaccinated helps to protect me and the people around me. The science behind the vaccine is sound, the vaccine is as safe as we can reasonably expect, and I trust the experts. Stop and think about the diseases such as polio, measles, mumps, and smallpox that we have beat back because we have vaccines. I’m old enough to personally know the hazards of those diseases; I didn’t have to worry about my own children and grandchildren contracting these diseases thanks to vaccines.

Doing our part to eradicate COVID-19

In my thinking, each of us can do our part to eradicate COVID-19 as well by discussing vaccines with your own doctor and then getting the vaccine as soon as it is available if it is recommended for you. I hope you will think that way too and together we can beat back this virus.

Wishing you well,

Laura

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