December 18

Flu Vaccine and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Many people are nervous and have concerns about the flu vaccine effectiveness when they have rheumatoid arthritis. What are some of the personal experiences of this and is there any science behind it?



​The Science: Flu Vaccine Effectiveness

Is there any science that demonstrates there is a benefit that outweighs the risk of taking the flu vaccine when you have an autoimmune disease? It’s hard to quote any statistics on the flu vaccine effectiveness. Different studies provide different figures[1][2] and few provide detailed information about flu vaccine effectiveness when you have rheumatoid arthritis.

There are also concerns with the flu strain changing so often, that when it comes to taking the vaccine, you might not be taking a vaccine protecting you from the currently circulating virus. Therefore, you could always be one year behind the flu virus.

There is also some evidence in studies and general observation that repeated flu vaccines might blunt their effectiveness [3].

However, before you take any action or inaction, you should always make your own judgement, speak to your health profession and do your own research.

​Personal Experience with the Flu Shot and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Clint has always been cautious about having a flu vaccine. One of the concerns, that others do share, is whether it can start an inflammatory reaction. Clint took his first flu shot when he was completing his immigration process for the US and needed one to be eligible for a Green Card.

Clint has always worked hard not to introduce things into the body that could trouble the immune system. Thankfully however, on this occasion, the flu vaccine did not cause an inflammatory response.

[1] Samuel R, Miller J. Is the influenza vaccine effective in decreasing infection, hospitalization, pneumonia, and mortality in healthy adults?. J Okla State Med Assoc. 2019;112(3):86-87

[2] Osterholm MT, Kelley NS, Sommer A, Belongia EA. Efficacy and effectiveness of influenza vaccines: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Lancet Infect Dis. 2012 Jan;12(1):36-44. doi: 10.1016/S1473-3099(11)70295-X. Epub 2011 Oct 25. Erratum in: Lancet Infect Dis. 2012 Sep;12(9):655. PMID: 22032844.

[3] Murray T. Repeated flu shots may blunt effectiveness. CMAJ. 2015;187(6):E180. doi:10.1503/cmaj.109-5000

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