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MS Living Well Podcast 14: Multiple Sclerosis & Vaccines including COVID-19

Jan 26 2021

Dr. Anne Cross, MS Living Well podcast guest, receiving 1st COVID-19 mRNA vaccine. Christian Gooden/Post-Dispatch

Vaccinations have been extremely effective in saving people from numerous fatal diseases such as measles, polio, hepatitis B, diphtheria and tetanus. Currently, the COVID-19 pandemic has been raging with almost 100 million people affected and over 2.1 million people dead. We again turn to our medical researchers. Recently available COVID-19 vaccines provide new optimism.  People living with multiple sclerosis have numerous questions regarding whether these COVID-19 vaccines against the SARS-Cov-2 virus are safe and effective for them. Both mRNA and adenovirus COVID-19 vaccines are explained on this podcast and concerns regarding vaccinating MS patients addressed.

The podcast covers types of vaccines people with multiple sclerosis should avoid and which vaccines are safe. The question whether vaccines can trigger MS attacks is tackled. Vaccines for measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), chicken pox (varicella), hepatitis B and influenza (flu) are individually reviewed.  Multiple sclerosis disease-modifying therapies (DMTs) can suppress the immune system and potentially impact whether a vaccine will be protective or not. Existing info on each MS medication type is discussed. Timing of vaccinations and medication dosing strategies covered such as for Ocrevus (ocrelizumab), Lemtrada (alemtuzumab) and Mavenclad (cladribine). Vaccines as a strategy to prevent or treat multiple sclerosis are explored; Epstein-Barr virus and BioNTech’s mRNA vaccine are considered.

Barry Singer MD, Director of The MS Center for Innovations in Care, interviews:

Dr. Anne Cross          Photo: Matt Miller

Anne Cross MD is Professor of Neurology at Washington University in St. Louis and Dr. John Trotter MS Chair in Neuroimmunology. She did her neurology residency at George Washington University and multiple fellowships including at the Neuroimmunology Branch at NIH, at the Department of Virology/Molecular Biology at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis and in the Neuropathology Department at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.  Her leading work in B cells in multiple sclerosis was recently recognized with the 2019 John Dystel Prize for MS Research.

Dr. Amit Bar-Or

Amit Bar-Or MD, FRCP, FAAN, FANA is Professor of Neurology at University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.   He serves as Director of the Center for Neuroinflammation and Neurotherapeutics and Chief of the Division of Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders. He completed his undergraduate degree at McMaster in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada and medical degree from McGill University in Montreal, Canada. His neurology training was at Massachusetts General Hospital and fellowship at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, both Harvard Medical School programs.  Dr. Bar-Or’s research focuses on neuroimmune health and central nervous system inflammatory diseases across the age span. He runs a cellular and molecular neuroimmunology lab studying principles of immune regulation and immune-neural interaction in the context of injury and repair of the human central nervous system.

BY: Barry Singer, MD DATE: January 26, 2021 TOPIC: Podcasts