Background: Reports of multiple sclerosis developing after hepatitis B vaccination have led to the concern that this vaccine might be a cause of multiple sclerosis in previously healthy subjects.
Methods: We conducted a nested case-control study in two large cohorts of nurses in the United States, those in the Nurses' Health Study (which has followed 121,700 women since 1976) and those in the Nurses' Health Study II (which has followed 116,671 women since 1989). For each woman with multiple sclerosis, we selected as controls five healthy women and one woman with breast cancer. Information about hepatitis B vaccination was obtained by means of a mailed questionnaire and was confirmed by means of vaccination certificates. The analyses included 192 women with multiple sclerosis and 645 matched controls and were conducted with the use of conditional logistic regression.
Results: The multivariate relative risk of multiple sclerosis associated with exposure to the hepatitis B vaccine at any time before the onset of the disease was 0.9 (95 percent confidence interval, 0.5 to 1.6). The relative risk associated with hepatitis B vaccination within two years before the onset of the disease was 0.7 (95 percent confidence interval, 0.3 to 1.8). The results were similar in analyses restricted to women with multiple sclerosis that began after the introduction of the recombinant hepatitis B vaccine. There was also no association between the number of doses of vaccine received and the risk of multiple sclerosis.
Conclusions: These results indicate no association between hepatitis B vaccination and the development of multiple sclerosis.