vaccines-and-autoimmune-diseases

Vaccines are an important medical advance

Measles, mumps, rubella, polio, meningitis, influenza, hepatitis, human papillomavirus (HPV), these are all infectious agents that cause serious and often fatal diseases in humans. But thanks to vaccinations, infections by most of these microbes have been, or will soon be, a thing of the past. However, in recent months, patients with autoimmune diseases (AIDs) such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, sarcoidosis, fibromyalgia, lupus, inflammatory bowel disease, type I diabetes, celiac disease, muscular dystrophy or scleroderma have become concerned as to whether there is a link between vaccinations and AIDs. The short answer is no, but hopefully this blog will help some of our readers better understand this issue.

Misplaced skepticism

The rise of the internet and the separation of time since horrible infectious diseases such as polio and measles were significant public health concerns have combined to confound public understanding of vaccine safety. Misinformed celebrities and headline-grabbing media coverage of studies that have long since been disproved, like the study that linked the mumps-measles-rubella (MMR) vaccine to autism, have led to rampant misplaced skepticism and outright avoidance of immunization.

“rejection of informed medical advice in favour of the opinion of sources purporting to illustrate causality for all individuals between vaccination and escalation of disease is reckless”

The desire for clarity and a healthy sense of judiciousness about medical interventions are valuable for protecting our health and that of our loved ones. However, rejecting informed medical advice in favour of the opinion of sources purporting to illustrate causality between vaccinations and disease escalation is reckless.

The relationship between autoimmune diseases and infections

In general, AIDs are complex and based on multiple genetic defects that altogether result in an improper response to environmental cues such as infectious agents. Individuals with AIDs are at higher risk than the general population of developing complications after viral or bacterial infection(1).

Individuals suffering from AID are often also prescribed immunosuppressants and this means vaccination must be managed properly to avoid complications(1). However, these individuals gain the most benefit from vaccination since actual infections cause more serious illness than the components of vaccines. For example, the observed rate of autoimmune thrombocytopenia is higher after exposure to natural rubella than after immunization with the MMR vaccine(2).

“studies have not found evidence that vaccination exacerbates autoimmune disease”

The current scientific consensus supports vaccination

Evidence that individuals with AIDs develop complications after vaccination at a higher rate than the background rate of such complications has not been produced, but there are several studies that indicate vaccination does not exacerbates autoimmune disease. There have also been complications observed in patients with AIDs after vaccination but these are extremely rare.

Here is a brief list of medical literature that show evidence does not indicate that vaccines exacerbate AIDs:

“these individuals gain the most benefit from preventative measures like vaccination”

Next steps

As in all endeavours, education is the best medicine. It is always wise to be skeptical of medical advice, but it is quite clear that current medical best practices suggest vaccination by individuals with AIDs is a prudent action to prevent serious complications from infections.

We hope that this blog post has helped you understand the relationship between vaccines and AIDs better. If you would like to learn more about vaccinations, be sure to speak with your physician about your specific concerns. You can also learn more about how our VitaSeqTM test can help you identify your genetic predisposition to autoimmune diseases and help you and your physician manage your immunization program. And as always, follow us on Twitter and Facebook to get all of our latest updates, or contact us directly!

References

  1. Westra J et al, “Vaccination of patients with autoimmune inflammatory rheumatic diseases.” Nature Reviews Rheumatology 2014.
  2. Chen RT et al, “Epidemiology of autoimmune reactions induced by vaccination.” Journal of Autoimmunity 2001.
  3. “Immunization Safety Review: Multiple Immunizations and Immune Dysfunction.“ Institute of Medicine (US) Immunization Safety Review Committee; National Academies Press (US); 2002.
  4. Lodhia N, “The appropriate use of vaccines in patients with inflammatory bowel disease.” Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology 2014.
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