Vaccines Were Not Tied to Multiple Sclerosis

Vaccines were not likely responsible for central nervous system diseases in recent study

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Many people worry that vaccines meant to prevent disease may cause other illnesses. But a recent study found that vaccines likely did not cause multiple sclerosis (MS) or disorders like it.

Vaccines are meant to help prevent diseases like influenza, hepatitis B (an infection of the liver) and human papillomavirus (HPV). Some have had concerns that these vaccines may also bring on central nervous system diseases like MS.

A recent study found no definite link between any of the vaccines and central nervous system diseases — and no reason to stop giving vaccinations.

Matthew McCoyd, MD, assistant professor of neurology at Loyola University Medical Center in Illinois, said he thinks this study is well done and adds to literature on the topic. While he has many people who ask him if it is safe for them to have vaccines, including the flu vaccine, his answer is a resounding "yes."

"It appears, across the board, that vaccines do not increase the risk for MS," said Dr. McCoyd, who was not involved in this study.

He stressed that people can be hurt much more by infections they can get if they are not vaccinated. "Vaccine are safe. The infections they prevent are not safe," he said.

This recent study was written by Annette Langer-Gould, MD, PhD, of Kaiser Permanente in Pasadena, CA, and colleagues.

MS is a disease in which the protective covering of the nerves is damaged, so messages between the body and brain may not be sent or are interrupted.

The study authors looked at data on people treated at their hospital from 2008 to 2011. They found 780 cases of patients with MS or similar diseases. They also found 3,6885 people to use as comparisons. These people were like the people with the diseases in terms of their age and sex, but they did not have MS or any similar disease, such as optic neuritis.

Nerve coverings are also damaged in patients with optic neuritis. The damage is primarily to the nerve between the brain and the eye (the optic nerve).

The authors then looked at vaccinations and when those diagnosed with MS and other similar diseases first started showing signs of the diseases.

The study authors did find that receiving a vaccine of any kind was tied to a short-term increased risk of neurological symptoms in people younger than 50. These people showed signs of a neurological disease involving the covering of the nerves within 30 days of the vaccine, but, 30 days later, those people no longer had any signs of any neurological disease. The authors said this likely happened because these people were building up their immune systems against MS and other central nervous system illnesses.

The authors found no association between hepatitis B vaccines and MS-like diseases. Also, there were not enough cases to be able to suggest a link with HPV vaccines. HPV is a sexually transmitted disease. A vaccine can prevent women from getting the virus, which can cause cervical cancer.

“Our findings do not warrant any change in vaccine policy,” the authors concluded.

This study was published Oct. 20 in JAMA Neurology.

The Kaiser Permanente Direct Community Benefit Funds and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke funded the study. The authors did not disclose any conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
October 19, 2014
Last Updated:
October 21, 2014