Vaccines Do Not cause Multiple Sclerosis

According to anti-vaccination advocates, vaccination (with the Hepatitis B vaccine in particular) can cause neurological diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS)1. This is supposedly the result of the vaccine producing antimyelin antibodies that attack the myelin sheath which exists around some nerves. However, a quick look at the medical data shows that this is just not the case.

In February of 2000, for example, Sadovnick and Sheifele reported on their study2 of school and hospital records in British Columbia, Canada. In this province, the Hepatitis B vaccine has been given to students age 11-12 (grade 6) since October, 1992. Thus, the researchers examined the number of multiple sclerosis cases amongst 6th grade students from January, 1986 to September, 1992 and compared it to the number of multiple sclerosis cases amongst 6th grade students from October, 1992 to September, 1998. The number of students in each case was similar, but the frequency of multiple sclerosis was actually a bit higher in the students prior to October of 1992 as compared to those after October of 1992. The difference was not statistically significant, but the result is clear. The hepatitis B vaccine cannot be associated with multiple sclerosis, as the multiple sclerosis rate was slightly lower after the vaccine was routinely given.

Another large-scale study comes Ascherio and others3. They used data from the Nurse’s Health Study, which has followed 121,700 women since 1976. They found no association between hepatitis B vaccination and the development of multiple sclerosis.

Another study was done on patients who had relapses of multiple sclerosis. After all, if the hepatitis vaccine produces antimyelin antibodies, it should exacerbate multiple sclerosis in patients whose disease is in remission. However, Confavreux and others4 followed 643 patients with relapses of multiple sclerosis and demonstrated that there was no association between exacerbations of multiple sclerosis and the hepatitis B vaccine, the tetanus shot, or the influenza vaccine.

Clearly, then, the medical literature does not support any kind of link between multiple sclerosis and the hepatitis B vaccine. Indeed, after reviewing all of the available evidence on the subject, the Institute of Medicine came to the conclusion that the hepatitis B vaccine does not increase a person’s risk of multiple sclerosis, nor does it trigger multiple sclerosis attacks.5

Another way of demonstrating that there is no medical evidence that the hepatitis B vaccine is linked to multiple sclerosis is to look at what the National Multiple Sclerosis Society says about hepatitis B vaccination. Since the mission of this society is “to end the devastating effects of MS,”6 they would definitely be interested in publicizing a link between multiple sclerosis and the hepatitis vaccine. Instead, they encourage the use of the vaccine7.

Clearly, then, the available medical data indicates that vaccines do not cause multiple sclerosis.


References

1. See, for example, ( Think Twice) or ( The National Vaccine Information Center)
2. Sadovnick A.D. and Scheifele D.W. “School-based hepatitis B vaccination programme and adolescent multiple sclerosis”, Lancet 2000;355:549-550
3. Alberto Ascherio, et. al., “Hepatitis B Vaccination and the Risk of Multiple Sclerosis” NEJM 2001;344:327-332
4. Confavreux C., et al. “Vaccinations and the Risk of Relapse in Multiple Sclerosis” NEJM 2001;344:327-332
5. Board on Health Promotion and Disease Prevention and the Institute of Medicine Immunization Safety Review: Hepatitis B Vaccine and Demyelinating Neurological Disorders 2002 ( Available online)
6. See ( The National Multiple Sclerosis Society website )
7. See ( The National Multiple Sclerosis Society website )

Dr. Wile is not medical a doctor. He is a nuclear chemist. As a result, he does not dispense medical advice. He simply educates the public about scientific issues. Please consult a board-certified medical doctor before making any medical decisions for yourself or your family.

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