Vaccinations and risk of central nervous system demyelinating diseases in adults

Arch Neurol. 2003 Apr;60(4):504-9. doi: 10.1001/archneur.60.4.504.


Background: Several case reports of the onset or exacerbation of multiple sclerosis or other demyelinating conditions shortly after vaccination have suggested that vaccines may increase the risk of demyelinating diseases.

Objective: To evaluate the association between vaccination and onset of multiple sclerosis or optic neuritis.

Design: Case-control study involving cases of multiple sclerosis or optic neuritis among adults 18 to 49 years of age. Data on vaccinations and other risk factors were obtained from computerized and paper medical records and from telephone interviews.

Setting: Three health maintenance organizations.

Participants: Four hundred forty case subjects and 950 control subjects matched on health maintenance organization, sex, and date of birth.

Interventions: None.

Main outcome measures: Onset of first symptoms of demyelinating disease at any time after vaccination and during specified intervals after vaccination (<1 year, 1-5 years, and >5 years).

Results: Cases and controls had similar vaccination histories. The odds ratios (95% confidence intervals), adjusted for potential confounding variables, of the associations between ever having been vaccinated and risk of demyelinating disease (multiple sclerosis and optic neuritis combined) were 0.9 (0.6-1.5) for hepatitis B vaccine; 0.6 (0.4-0.8) for tetanus vaccination; 0.8 (0.6-1.2) for influenza vaccine; 0.8 (0.5-1.5) for measles, mumps, rubella vaccine; 0.9 (0.5-1.4) for measles vaccine; and 0.7 (0.4-1.0) for rubella vaccine. The results were similar when multiple sclerosis and optic neuritis were analyzed separately. There was no increased risk according to timing of vaccination.

Conclusion: Vaccination against hepatitis B, influenza, tetanus, measles, or rubella is not associated with an increased risk of multiple sclerosis or optic neuritis.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Health Maintenance Organizations
  • Hepatitis B Vaccines / administration & dosage
  • Hepatitis B Vaccines / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Influenza Vaccines / administration & dosage
  • Influenza Vaccines / adverse effects
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Measles Vaccine / administration & dosage
  • Measles-Mumps-Rubella Vaccine / administration & dosage
  • Measles-Mumps-Rubella Vaccine / adverse effects
  • Multiple Sclerosis / chemically induced
  • Multiple Sclerosis / immunology*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Optic Neuritis / chemically induced
  • Optic Neuritis / immunology*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Rubella Vaccine / administration & dosage
  • Rubella Vaccine / adverse effects
  • Tetanus Toxoid / administration & dosage
  • Tetanus Toxoid / adverse effects
  • Time Factors
  • United States
  • Vaccines / administration & dosage*
  • Vaccines / adverse effects*


  • Hepatitis B Vaccines
  • Influenza Vaccines
  • Measles Vaccine
  • Measles-Mumps-Rubella Vaccine
  • Rubella Vaccine
  • Tetanus Toxoid
  • Vaccines