Vaccine Considerations for Multiple Sclerosis in the COVID-19 Era

Patricia K. Coyle, Anne Gocke, Megan Vignos, Scott D. Newsome

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


People with multiple sclerosis (MS) are at risk for infections that can result in amplification of baseline symptoms and possibly trigger clinical relapses. Vaccination can prevent infection through the activation of humoral and cellular immune responses. This is particularly pertinent in the era of emerging novel vaccines against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). MS disease-modifying therapies (DMTs), which affect the immune system, may impact immune responses to COVID-19 vaccines in people with MS. The objective of this article is to provide information on immune system responses to vaccinations and review previous studies of vaccine responses in people with MS to support the safety and importance of receiving currently available and emerging COVID-19 vaccines. Immunological studies have shown that coordinated interactions between T and B lymphocytes of the adaptive immune system are key to successful generation of immunological memory and production of neutralizing antibodies following recognition of vaccine antigens by innate immune cells. CD4+ T cells are essential to facilitate CD8+ T cell and B cell activation, while B cells drive and sustain T cell memory. Data suggest that some classes of DMT, including type 1 interferons and glatiramer acetate, may not significantly impair the response to vaccination. DMTs—such as sphingosine-1-phosphate receptor modulators, which sequester lymphocytes from circulation; alemtuzumab; and anti-CD20 therapies, which rely on depleting populations of immune cells—have been shown to attenuate responses to conventional vaccines. Currently, three COVID-19 vaccines have been granted emergency use authorization in the USA on the basis of promising interim findings of ongoing trials. Because analyses of these vaccines in people with MS are not available, decisions regarding COVID-19 vaccination and DMT choice should be informed by data and expert consensus, and personalized with considerations for disease burden, risk of infection, and other factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3550-3588
Number of pages39
JournalAdvances in Therapy
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • COVID-19
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Vaccines

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology (medical)


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