Flu vaccination: Safety issues for people with ME

Firstly, if you have a Carer or are dependent on someone to look after you, it would be prudent for them to have a flu vaccination. I hear comments like ‘It made me ill for a month after last time’, particularly from the older end of the population. My answer to that is that the vaccination is basically dead, or parts of dead virus given to alert your immune system to the threat. If you are suffering badly with dead virus, just think what would happen if you were infected with a live virus.

However the case is not so clear for M.E. sufferers as there are many factors to be balanced up. Really the best person to help you do this is your doctor. I am not aware of any hard evidence about flu vaccines with M.E. sufferers. However the points are as follows:

a) It will provide a high degree of protection against those strains of flu likely to be around this winter.
b) Flu vaccination reduces the chances of catching flu by about 70% for a year.
c) A bout of flu will almost certainly cause a relapse or worsening of M.E. symptoms.
d) If you have other serious health problems e.g. lungs, chest, heart, kidney disease, diabetes, or are taking steroids, or have a compromised immune system, you are at risk of developing serious complications.
e) If you have already been vaccinated against flu while having M.E. and not had any problems then the chances are that it should be OK.
f) Some people with M.E. when given an immune system challenge like a vaccination experience a remission. This can also occur with things like bee stings.

a) Experience suggests that some people will suffer a relapse of symptoms. From experiences of our members I would say about two thirds will relapse.
b) Some people with M.E. have a definite over activated immune system. It is accepted medical practice not to give vaccinations to anyone who is suffering from an infection or with a activated immune system, as it may produce a potentially serious or life threatening adverse reaction.
c) Some people by the nature of an activated immune system are given a little extra protection because of having M.E.
d) It is not possible to predict who will react adversely, and in what way, to any vaccination.
e) In certain cases of AIDs there is a theoretical risk that a vaccination will increase the levels of HIV virus. This could also occur if other infections are present.
f) In event of a flu epidemic there are other drugs which can give a degree of protection e.g. Amantidine, but there are side effects.