Each year as flu season advances people with 'chronic fatigue syndrome' (ME/CFS), fibromyalgia, and related illnesses struggle with the flu shot decision. Here we share the current insights and recommendations of Dr. Charles Lapp, director of the Hunter-Hopkins Center in Charlotte, NC. It is reproduced with kind permission from the Hunter-Hopkins website (http://DrLapp.com), which offers many resources including an “Ask the Doctor” Q&A.
Hunter-Hopkins Center, October 2012
Influenza Vaccination: Should I Get a Flu Vaccine?
Due to reports of severe relapses following immunization, flu vaccinations are generally NOT recommended to persons with CFS or FM unless:
1. You have taken flu vaccinations in the past and tolerated them well, or
2. You have a serious chronic illness (such as emphysema, diabetes, or heart disease) in addition to CFS/ME/FM.
Not only do some patients relapse after flu vaccination, but many do not sero-convert (develop antibodies) to the vaccination. Thus you may suffer the discomfort of a “shot” plus the misery of a relapse, and not even develop immunity.
These are the current recommendations from the Hunter-Hopkins Center:
• If you have tolerated it in the past, you may take a flu vaccination this year if you wish.
• Recognize, however, that you may not develop protective antibodies.
• If you are elderly, infirm, or have a serious chronic illness for which vaccination is recommended, weigh the risk of immunization against the risk of contracting the flu.
If you don’t take the flu vaccination, “antivirals” are available to fight influenza.
These should be started within 72 hours of onset in order to reduce the severity and the length of your illness.
These drugs include:
1. Symmetrel (amantidine) 100mg bid [twice a day] for 5 days for influenza A
2. Flumadene (ramantidine) 100mg bid for 5 days for influenza A
3. Relenza (an inhaler) 2 puffs bid for 5 days for influenza A or B
4. Tamiflu One tab bid for 5 days for influenza A or B
(Tamiflu and Relenza are currently preferred due to resistance that has developed to the other antiviral agents.)
There have been anecdotal reports of relapses being triggered by Hepatitis B and Rubella [‘German measles’] vaccines as well, but pneumococcal, H. influenza, and tetanus seem to be tolerated satisfactorily.
Note: This information has not been evaluated by the FDA. It is general information, represents the research and opinions of the author, and should not replace the attention and advice of your personal physician. Nor is it meant to prevent, diagnose, treat or cure any condition, illness, or disease. It is very important that you make no change in your healthcare plan or health support regimen without researching and discussing it in collaboration with your professional healthcare team.