The Flu Vaccine Is Safe for Those with Autoimmune Neuromuscular Disorders 

By Jack Gerard from In The Cloud Copy. 

While vaccines are largely considered safe for most of the population, there are some people whose doctors recommend avoiding at least some vaccines. One group of individuals who might be at risk with certain vaccines are those with autoimmune neuromuscular disorders such as myasthenia gravis (MG), chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP), or Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS). In particular, it was unknown whether using the flu vaccine was safe for those with these conditions or if the vaccine could cause a relapse in their conditions. 

Fortunately, some of these concerns have been put to rest. A new study suggests that the vaccine is safe for those with CIDP and other autoimmune neuromuscular disorders after all. More importantly, it suggests that a good number of doctors are already recommending the vaccine for those who are suffer from these conditions as a way to protect them from the flu. 

Autoimmune Neuromuscular Disorders 

There are a number of types of autoimmune neuromuscular disorders, caused by a wide range of pathogenetic mechanisms. The disorders occur when a pathogen or other trigger causes the body to have an immune reaction that targets parts of the peripheral nervous system that controls muscle and joint function. The symptoms, severity, and duration can vary depending upon the specific disorder a patient is afflicted with, with common symptoms including weakness, pain, muscle stiffness, nerve damage, and more. 

Potential Flu Vaccine Dangers 

The reason that some might be concerned about flu vaccines is that they have the potential to act as a trigger and cause regression when the disorder is otherwise responding to treatment. Depending on the specific disorder and its severity, this can result in a significant setback for the patient. Given the potential risks associated with the flu for those who suffer from autoimmune disorders, a decision to skip flu vaccines over regression concerns could have potentially serious consequences. 

Study Results 

The flu vaccine study, published in the journal Muscle & Nerve, found that there does not appear to be a risk of regression for sufferers of autoimmune neuromuscular disorders. The study, which followed 6448 patients with MG, 2310 patients with CIDP, and 1907 patients with GBS, followed them across medical practice settings and considered both the percentages at which doctors recommended flu vaccinations and the rates at which relapse occurred. Flu shots were recommended in greater than 50 percent of cases across the three disorders, with 95 percent of doctors recommending vaccines for some or all of their patients with MG, 84 percent recommending them for patients with CIDP, and 67 percent recommending them for patients with GBS. Relapse rates for those receiving flu vaccines were 1.6 percent, 4 percent, and 9 percent respectively across the three conditions. Read more here.

Future Vaccine Recommendations 

Given the high rates of vaccination recommendations and the low rates of relapse, the study suggests that flu shots are safe for most patients with autoimmune neuromuscular disorders. As a result, it is likely that doctors who were previously hesitant to recommend flu vaccines will give more consideration to recommending the vaccines in the future. This could result in greater levels of vaccine coverage for those with these disorders, potentially lessening the impact that the flu can have on them in future flu seasons. 

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