Before I was diagnosed with MS, I was terribly needle-phobic. Six years on Copaxone cured me of that, but it didn’t cure me of trying to avoid taking the flu shot every year. I was worried that because I had MS, I would end up making myself sick by taking it — that either I’d end up with the flu, or I’d have a relapse because my immune system was creating antibodies. Fortunately, my fears were unfounded.
The Connection Between MS and the Flu Vaccine Has Been Thoroughly Studied.
“Carefully controlled studies have not demonstrated an increase in relapse rate or progression of disability following influenza vaccination. All studies have suggested that influenza vaccination did not result in an increase in the risk of relapse. Further, the placebo and treated groups showed no difference in progression of disability over a 6-month period, suggesting that the vaccine had no effect on disease activity. ”
The Flu Shot Cannot Give You The Flu.
The flu shot is not a live-virus vaccine, which means that it cannot cause infection. In fact, it protects against 3 or 4 different strains of flu virus (depending on which shot you get), an infection by any of which would be very likely to cause an actual relapse in disease activity. 
Why do so many of us feel poorly over the 24-48 hours after taking the shot?
“According to the CDC, mild side effects from the flu shot include soreness, redness or swelling at the injection site, low-grade fever, and aches. … For adults, side effects include runny nose, headache, sore throat and cough.” 
This means that it is highly likely that getting the flu shot will likely both make you feel like you have the flu and cause a pseudoexacerbation, since pseudoexacerbations are often triggered by fever.  You should feel better within a couple of days, though.
Is Suffering Through A Pseudoexacerbation Worth It?
Even though only 5 – 20% of the population will get the flu in a given year, vaccinated individuals are 60% less likely to catch it than people who aren’t vaccinated, according to the CDC. This means that you would decrease your real odds of contracting the flu from 7.14% to 2.86% in a quiet year, or from 28.58% to 11.42% in a heavier year. Individuals who contract the flu despite being vaccinated develop less severe symptoms and are less likely to be hospitalized. 
For those of us who have taken interferon-based medication, enduring a couple of days of flu-like symptoms from a shot is nothing new. With an actual influenza infection, however, you would feel bad for a much longer period of time, be likely to pick up a secondary infection, and have 33% likelihood of disease progression which would affect you for the rest of your life. 
Of course, no answer is one-size-fits-all. MS is different for everyone, and your personal situation makes a big difference as to whether or not you choose to get vaccinated.
People who are currently experiencing a relapse should not get vaccinated. After you’re feeling better, discuss it with your doctor.
People taking Lemtrada® should be given the inactivated flu vaccine six weeks before receiving their infusion.
Folks with MS should not take the high-dose inactivated flu vaccine (Fluzone High Dose) because it has not been tested for people that have MS yet.
Nobody should take the FluMist spray, for a couple of reasons: (1) because it is a live virus vaccine, meaning it can cause those of us who are immuno-suppressed to develop the flu, and (2) it has not been very effective over the last few years.
People who’ve had severe allergic reaction to eggs, including angioedema (swelling of the skin) and difficulty breathing, should only get their flu shot in a medical setting (such as a hospital, clinic or doctor’s office), and it should be given by a healthcare provider who can recognize and manage severe allergic conditions.
Personally, I’m going to get my flu shot this year. I’d rather schedule feeling bad for a day or two than take a higher chance of dealing with increased disability for the rest of my life. Sure, I might get the flu anyway, but I’d rather hedge my bets. Besides, my local grocery store is giving 10% off to anybody who gets the shot at their pharmacy, so it makes good financial sense too.
Are you planning to get your flu shot this year?
Rachael Shapiro Majka is a writer, health advocate, and stay-at-home mom who loves to cook, make music, and foster kittens. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Berklee College of Music and a juris doctor from Southwestern Law School. Diagnosed with MS in May of 2007 (which caused her to develop seizure disorder), she chronicles her quest to live the best life possible on the blog In It For The Parking and keeps up a popular Pinterest board of paleo recipes called the Paleo Compendium. She can also be found on Twitter and Facebook.
You may also enjoy reading other articles by Rachael: 5 Ways To Make Your Home MS Friendly, Having The Best Sex Possible With Multiple Sclerosis and Cinnamon Helps To Suppress Symptoms.
1 – http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/429479_3
3 – http://www.livescience.com/40279-flu-shot-information.html
4 – https://secure.nationalmssociety.org/site/SPageServer/?pagename=HOM_LIB_imsjuly04_msattackornot
Image from http://www.mensjournal.com/health-fitness/health/forget-the-vitamins-get-a-flu-shot-20151127