Researchers found that 10%-20% of multiple sclerosis (MS) patients are hesitant about receiving vaccines, mostly due to misconceptions and insufficient knowledge about the vaccines. This study was published in Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders.
A prospective audit of 105 people with MS in Ireland found that 9.5% of patients were hesitant about the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine, in comparison to 20% and 21% who were hesitant about the influenza and pneumococcal vaccines, respectively.
The study’s authors proposed that the lower hesitancy rates for SARS-CoV-2 may be due to the persistent reinforcement of its benefits to personal and societal health as well as the economy by allowing a more rapid return to normalcy. The authors also suggested that the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic was perceived as a more immediate threat to the patients than the influenza and pneumococcal viruses, leading to higher acceptance.
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The study found that patients who were explicitly advised to receive the influenza and pneumococcal vaccines were significantly more likely to do so (P <.001 for both). The main reasons for not receiving these vaccines were perceived lack of necessity (50%) for the influenza vaccine and lack of knowledge (54.5%) for the pneumococcal vaccine.
“Taken together, these findings demonstrate the potentially large impact on vaccine uptake that may be had with dedicated patient education by healthcare professionals on the direct relevance of vaccination to [people with MS],” determined the authors.
The authors also suggested that physicians should provide context-specific vaccination counseling. This is to focus on the impact vaccination can have on avoiding infection-related disability accrual and reducing the risk of life-threatening infection complications for patients receiving immunomodulatory disease modifying therapies (DMT).
Physicians should also highlight that pretreatment with vaccines prior to initiation of DMTs can help avoid interruption of therapy and improve vaccine responses, the researchers wrote.
When counseling patients, the authors advised avoiding medical jargon in order to speak simply and correct any misconceptions through the use of scientific evidence.
The study found that vaccination rates against human papillomavirus (1%) as well as measles, mumps, and rubella (51.4%) were also low in people with MS.
Yap SM, Al Hinai M, Gaughan M, et al. Vaccine hesitancy among people with multiple sclerosis. Mult Scler Relat Disord. 2021;56:103236. doi:10.1016/j.msard.2021.103236.