Influenza Vaccines and Neurological Complications (2004)
Table of Contents
Kathleen Stratton, Donna A. Alamario, Theresa Wizemann, and Marie C. McCormick, Editors, Immunization Safety Review Committee
Infection with the influenza virus can have a serious effect on the health of people of all ages, although it is particularly worrisome for infants, the elderly, and people with underlying heart or lung problems. A vaccine exists (the flu shot) that can greatly decrease the impact of influenza. Because the strains of virus that are expected to cause serious illness and death are slightly different every year, the vaccine is also slightly different every year and it must be given every year, unlike other vaccines.
The Immunization Safety Review committee reviewed the data on influenza vaccine and neurological conditions and concluded that the evidence favored rejection of a causal relationship between influenza vaccines and exacerbation of multiple sclerosis. For the other neurological conditions studied, the committee concluded the evidence about the effects of influenza vaccine is inadequate to accept or reject a causal relationship. The committee also reviewed theories on how the influenza vaccine could damage the nervous system. The evidence was at most weak that the vaccine could act in humans in ways that could lead to these neurological problems.