Found this question on About.com Multiple Sclerosis. A doctor answers the questions posted.
Q. Am I more susceptible to H1N1 because I have multiple sclerosis?
Wednesday November 4, 2009
I recently got the following e-mail: "I have MS and I guess that means that I have a weak immune system because I seem to catch every cold that is going around. Once I get a cold, it turns into something worse and I end up coughing for a long time. Does this mean that I should not get the H1N1 vaccine, because is it dangerous to me with my compromised immune system?"
A. There are a couple of things going on here and I will try to clarify some points:
1. People with MS do NOT have weak or compromised immune systems. Quite the opposite, actually - our immune systems are overactive and are attacking our myelin.
2. It probably seems like you are getting sick more often than most people because of the symptoms that you are experiencing from minor infections. People with MS tend to have decreased lung function. Even people with very little noticeable disability can have lung function that is only 60 to 70% of normal. As a result, even little respiratory bugs can cause us to cough for much longer than someone without MS as these infections "settle in" to cause bronchitis or even pneumonia.
3. You absolutely SHOULD get the H1N1 vaccine. As mentioned, people with MS do not have compromised immune systems (for the record, immunocompromised people should also get the vaccine). The H1N1 virus is very dangerous to anyone who could easily develop pneumonia, which is our big risk factor due to the decreased lung function that I mentioned.
Here are a couple additional points about the H1N1 vaccine for people with MS:
People with MS should NOT get the nasal mist version of the vaccine, as it contains live virus.
If you are concerned about thimerosal, avoid the vaccine that comes from multi-dose vials. The single-dose syringes do NOT contain thimerosal.
Adjuvants are not included in the flu vaccines that are used in the United States.
Dxed Jan 2006. Sx since 2002. Rebif since March 2006. "When one door closes, another opens but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us." Alexander Graham Bell