The research evidence for a link between hepatitis B vaccination and the onset of multiple sclerosis is inconclusive.
A study in 2004 suggested that people who had had a hepatitis B vaccination in the previous three years were more likely to develop MS than those who did not. The research identified 163 people with MS, 11 (6.7%) of whom had had the hepatitis B vaccination and 1,604 people who did not have MS, 39 (2.4%) of whom had been vaccinated. Although this research suggests a possible role for the vaccine in the onset of multiple sclerosis, the vast majority of people who developed MS had not had the hepatitis B vaccination.
These findings have been contradicted by several other studies.
A study from 2003 looked at vaccinations for influenza (flu), hepatitis B, tetanus, measles and rubella (German measles) in 440 people with MS or optic neuritis and 950 people who did not have MS. The results of this study showed no association between any of the vaccinations and the development of multiple sclerosis.
A study looking at children who had had one episode of neurological symptoms prior to receiving the hepatitis B vaccination found that it had no effect on whether or not they went on to develop MS.
A study published in 2014 found no association between the hepatitis B vaccine and an increased risk of multiple sclerosis up to three years after vaccination.
For people who already have MS, research has failed to show that the hepatitis B vaccination causes a relapse.
Given the serious and at times fatal nature of hepatitis B, the recommendation is to have the vaccination if necessary.
- Archives of Neurology 2003;60(4):504-509. Summary Vaccinations and risk of central nervous system demyelinating diseases in adults.
- Neurology 2004;63(5):838-842. Summary Recombinant hepatitis B vaccine and the risk of multiple sclerosis: a prospective study.
- Tissue Antigens 2006;68(3):235-238. Summary Development of multiple sclerosis after vaccination against hepatitis B: a study based on human leucocyte antigen haplotypes.
- Brain 2007;130(4):1105-1110. Full article Hepatitis B vaccine and risk of relapse after a first childhood episode of CNS inflammatory demyelination.
- JAMA Neurology 2014;71(12):1506-1513. Summary Vaccines and the risk of multiple sclerosis and other central nervous system demyelinating diseases.
- New England Journal of Medicine 2001;344(5):319-326. Summary Vaccinations and the risk of relapse in multiple sclerosis. Vaccines in Multiple Sclerosis Study Group.
Last updated: November 2017
Last reviewed: October 2014
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