Should you get the COVID vaccine?
The Canadian Network of MS Clinics and the U.S. National MS Society have recommended that most people with multiple sclerosis should sign up to be vaccinated against COVID. While the vaccines have not been tested specifically in people with MS, the vaccines are considered to be safe and will protect against getting the disease.
People with MS do not appear to be at risk of a worse case of COVID compared to the non-MS population. However, there are concerns that COVID, like other viral infections, may cause some worsening of MS. Vaccination is strongly encouraged for high-risk MS patients, including older individuals, pregnant women, people who are obese, Black and Hispanic populations and people with other medical conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease or lung disease. The recommendations also advise people who have already had COVID to get vaccinated.
There have been concerns that taking a disease-modifying therapy (DMT) for MS puts people at risk since these medications alter the immune response. However, studies to date have indicated that the risk of a more severe case of COVID is higher in people who let their MS go untreated (Salter and colleagues. ECTRIMS 2020; LB1242). So people taking a DMT should not make any changes to their treatment regimen (such as skipping doses) unless advised to do so by their MS healthcare team.
People with MS are generally not considered to be a priority high-risk group for vaccination unless they have other risk factors. People at higher risk from COVID including those aged 70 or older, people living in a care home, and those with significant disability or other medical condition. With the current pace of the roll-out, it is unlikely that people with MS will be able to get vaccinated for several months. As of January 21, an estimated 682,141 vaccine doses had been administered in Canada, representing 0.9% of the population.
Once a person becomes eligible for vaccination, some people may need to alter their treatment regimen beforehand. But any treatment adjustments, and the best timing for vaccination, will need to be discussed with the MS team.
Canadian Network of MS Clinics:
https://cnmsc.ca/Covid19VaccineGuidance. Note that the U.S. guidance has not been adapted for Canada and links in the article may not apply.
https://cnmsc.ca/RecommendationsCovid19Vaccines. Recommendations for policy-makers.
COVID vaccine tracker:
National MS Society:
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