MSIF Issues New Recommendations to Protect Against COVID-19
The Multiple Sclerosis International Federation (MSIF) has issued new recommendations about how people with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) should adjust their daily lives due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The MSIF, a network of national MS societies from around the world, first issued COVID-19 recommendations last spring. But much has been learned about how the virus affects people with MS. The new recommendations address whether MS leads to further complications with the virus, and whether MSers should be treated with disease-modifying therapies (DMTs) during the pandemic.
Are people with MS affected differently than healthy people?
According to the MSIF, the answer is apparently not – with exceptions.
“The latest data is reassuring that people are not at a greater risk of contracting the virus or developing severe symptoms just because they have MS,” according to Clare Walton, head of research and access at MSIF.
Previously, the list of those at higher risk included people with progressive MS, those with a score of 6 or higher on the Expanded Disability Status Scale, and people over 60. The new recommendations add to that men with MS, African Americans and possibly South Asians with MS, people with MS who are obese or have diabetes, and those being treated with some disease-modifying therapies.
DMTs and COVID-19
An MSIF press release describes one change regarding disease-modifying therapies as “critical.” There has been some research indicates that DMTs targeting CD20 cells — specifically, ocrelizumab and rituximab — appear to be linked to an increased chance of someone with MS being hospitalized or requiring intensive care treatment if they contract COVID-19.
On the other hand, preliminary evidence indicates that interferons may reduce the need for hospitalization due to COVID-19.
Natalizumab has been moved into the group of DMTs considered to have no apparent risks.
Overall, the guidelines still recommend that “people with MS currently taking DMTs continue with their treatment, unless advised to stop by their treating clinician.”
The guidelines state that any MS patient that contracts COVID should speak with their doctor immediately. This should be done if you have either tested positive or have began showing symptoms.
We are all familiar with basic COVID-19 advice for the general public. Such as mask wearing, washing or sanitizing your hands, and social distancing. These are important from stopping the spread of the virus and protecting ourselves and loved ones.
What about a vaccine?
There is very welcome news that a COVID-19 vaccine could be made available to the general public in the next few months. The question then arises about whether people with MS should get the vaccine. There is no advice as of yet for this because so far, there have been no studies focusing on MS patients.
It should be noted that there are at least two vaccines that may come available. These vaccines will each function their own way in the human body and will affect the patient differently. We will provide as much information as we can about the vaccines and effects when the information comes available.
So, when we get answers as to should MS patients get the vaccine, we will share it here.