Multiple Sclerosis & the COVID-19 Vaccine
Dr. Amit Bar-Or, Chief of the Penn MS & Related Disorders Center, and Dr. Dina Jacobs, Clinical Director of the Penn MS & Related Disorders Center, share COVID-19 vaccination information and answer questions vital to those with multiple sclerosis and related disorders:
- Learn how the COVID-19 vaccines work.
- Find out if you should receive the vaccine.
- Understand how MS treatments affect the vaccine response.
- Learn how to time your vaccine around your MS treatments.
If you still have questions regarding the COVID-19 vaccine, please refer to the National MS Society's COVID-19 Vaccine Guidance or Penn Medicine's COVID-19 FAQs for the most up-to-date information.
Penn clinicians at the Penn Comprehensive Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Center provide evaluation, diagnosis and treatment for patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) and associated disorders, including optic neuritis (inflammation of the optic nerves), transverse myelitis (inflammation of the spinal cord), neuromyelitis optica, acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, and other autoimmune conditions of the central nervous system (CNS).
The Penn Comprehensive MS Center is located at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP). Members of the MS Division also staff clinics at Pennsylvania Hospital and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center.
What is Multiple Sclerosis?
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an immune-mediated disease affecting the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord). There are more than 450,000 people in the United States with MS, making it one of the most common causes of neurological disability among young adults in North America. Although MS can appear at any age, it most commonly becomes clinically-apparent between the ages of 20 and 40, and affects women twice as often as men.
While there is no cure for multiple sclerosis, Dr. Amit Bar-Or has been involved in the research and development for a new treatment called Ocrevus (Ocrelizumab). Learn more about the new MS drug Ocrevus (Ocrelizumab).
Immunotherapy for MS
Unlike cancer, where the immune system ignores the disease, MS is caused by overactive immune cells that mistake healthy nerve cells for invaders. Body functions degrade over time, which makes life itself very difficult.
At Penn Medicine, we're conducting several clinical trials for MS. To date, we've managed to slow and even halt the progress of MS in some patients. In the near future, we hope to be able to reverse the nerve damage and make the cure a permanent part of the body's defenses.
Symptoms of MS
As virtually any region of the central nervous system may be affected by MS, the symptoms of MS are quite varied. Approximately 50 percent of patients with MS first present with an isolated neurological problem and an almost equal number have more than one symptom heralding their illness.
Relapses or the exacerbation of symptoms in MS can last for days or weeks and then resolve, partially or fully. Over time, symptoms may persist or steadily worsen, as part of progressive disease Symptoms of multiple sclerosis may occur in varying degrees of intensity, ranging from mild to severe. Among the most common symptoms of MS are:
- Visual loss
- Double vision
- Weakness of one or more extremities
- Facial weakness
- Trigeminal neuralgia (facial pain)
- Numbness and tingling
- Muscle stiffness (spasticity)
- Gait abnormalities and imbalance
- Cognitive difficulties
- Bowel and bladder problems
- Sexual dysfunction
In 2014, the National MS Society designated the Penn MS Center as a National MS Comprehensive Care Center. This achievement recognizes the ability of the Penn MS Center to provide comprehensive, state-of-the-art care to patients with MS, while also contributing to important research advances.
As a multispecialty program, our team of physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, physical and occupational therapists, and social workers collaborate with experts across multiple disciplines to provide diagnosis, care and management of MS and associated disorders. The Penn Comprehensive MS Center also works with the local chapters of the National MS Society and Multiple Sclerosis Association of America to assure the highest level of care for our patients.