Flu vaccinations

MS and influenza ('flu')

'Flu' can make your MS worse:

  • it pushes up your temperature, which can make your symptoms flare up 
  • and if you have relapses with your MS an infection like flu can trigger one 

So should I get a flu jab?

It's recommended that people with MS have a free seasonal flu jab every autumn. This is before the flu season starts around November. But it's still worth having one later than that. Carers and partners can get a free flu jab too.

Is the flu jab safe?

Yes, studies show the flu jab doesn't cause relapses or make MS worse. And it can't give you flu. Vaccines given to adults in the UK don't have any 'live' virus in them which might trigger flu.

A few weeks after having flu around one in three people have a relapse. But the risk of the flu jab causing one is so small that it's not worth worrying about. 

I'm on a DMT. Can I still have a flu jab?

Yes, studies show this is safe. If you're on a DMT the vaccine usually gives you enough protection. One exception might be glatiramer acetate (Copaxone). In a small study this drug stopped the vaccine giving the protection it should give. We need bigger studies before we know for sure. Also, natalizumab (Tysabri) caused the flu jab to give less protection in one study, but in a second study it worked fine.

If you're taking alemtuzumab (Lemtrada) wait before getting a flu jab. After your last dose of this drug your immune system needs three to four months to recover before it's safe to have vaccinations. Your MS specialist will give you advice.

Speak to your doctor

Guidelines from NICE say you should talk to your MS specialist about the benefits of being vaccinated and the risk of having a relapse. He or she will recommend what to do based on your individual circumstances. Your specialist might advise you to wait before having a flu jab if you're having a relapse or taking steroids during one. 

Page last updated: 20 Oct 2016

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