Flu shots decrease overall risk of acquiring Guillain-Barré Syndrome

January 19, 2015

Drs. Kumanan Wilson and Steven Hawken published a paper this week that examines whether the flu shot increases or decreases the risk of getting Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS), a rare but serious autoimmune condition.

Recent studies have associated flu and also flu vaccination with an increased risk of developing GBS. The possible association of GBS with vaccination is frequently cited by health-care workers as a reason not to have a flu shot, even though chances of acquiring GBS after contracting the flu are far greater. This study is the first to use a model that accounts simultaneously for incidence of flu in the community and effectiveness of the flu vaccine. In most scenarios the authors found an overall decreased risk of GBS associated with vaccination, which runs counter to the prevailing thoughts and studies on the matter and is an important message for flu shot campaigns.

For details, see the paper in CDC's Emerging Infectious Diseases journal, and articles by the Ottawa Citizen, The Canadian Press, La Presse, Medscape and Washington Post.

Other co-authors: Jeffrey C. Kwong, Shelley L. Deeks, Natasha S. Crowcroft, Allison J. McGeer, Robin Ducharme, Michael A. Campitelli and Doug Coyle.

Funder(s): Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, University of Toronto, University of Ottawa, The Ottawa Hospital Foundation

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