These pages contain information about COVID-19, vaccinations and MS as general advice only. The information provided on these pages should not be taken as individual medical advice. Your medical team (neurologist, MS nurse, GP) is still your primary source of contact for any concerns or specific questions you may have about COVID-19, vaccinations and timing of MS treatments and other medicines. For general queries, please contact your state or territory MS Member Organisation, or the Coronavirus Hotline on 1800 675 398.
The Australian Technical Advisory Group for Immunisations (ATAGI) advises the Australian Government on immunisation issues and provides guidance about vaccination schedules. Past ATAGI COVID-19 statements can be accessed here.
It is important to understand the difference between a primary course of vaccination and a booster dose. The primary course of vaccination consists of the minimum number of doses to achieve the desired immune response. In clinical trials for COVID-19, this was demonstrated to be two doses of vaccine given between 3 and 12 weeks apart, depending on the type of vaccination (Pfizer/”Cominarty” or Astra Zeneca/”Vaxzevria” or Novavax/Biocelect (Nuvaxovid)). However, for people who are severely immunocompromised, it was determined that a third dose would be necessary to complete the primary course of vaccination and provide adequate protection against COVID-19. In contrast, a booster vaccination is administered sometime after the primary course of vaccination, to remind the body how to fight the virus. In the case of COVID-19, the booster dose is currently administered 3 months after the primary course of vaccination is completed for people aged 16 years and older.
For most people with MS, this means they will have a 2-dose primary course of vaccinations for COVID-19, followed by a booster dose 3 months later, just like the general population of Australia. However, some people with MS are deemed to be in the severely immunocompromised group because of medications they may be receiving to treat their MS. Currently, this group includes ocrelizumab (Ocrevus), ofatumumab (Kesimpta), rituximab (various trade names), alemtuzumab (Lemtrada), fingolimod (Gilenya), ozanimod (Zeposia) and siponimod (Mayzent) and some other immunosuppressive medications for MS (such as high dose corticosteroids to treat a relapse) or other co-existing diseases. For these people, they will require a 3-dose primary course of vaccinations for COVID-19, followed by a booster dose 3 months later.
The following groups are recommended to receive a winter booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine (this will be the fifth vaccine and second booster for those immunocompromised and the fourth vaccine and second booster for all others):
ATAGI recommends that people in these groups who have not yet received their winter booster should get one as soon as possible, factoring in timing of first booster and infection (if applicable)
Additional groups recommended (from 25 May 2022):
Multiple Sclerosis is included in this group in table 1 under chronic neurological disease
This latest ATAGI advice can be found here: https://www.health.gov.au/resources/publications/expanded-atagi-recommendations-on-winter-covid-19-booster-doses-for-people-at-increased-risk-of-severe-covid-19
If you are on a disease modifying therapy (DMT) that places you in the immunocompromised group, please consult with your MS neurologist/MS healthcare team/GP about the timing of your next vaccination. These DMTs include: Lemtrada, Ocrevus, Kesimpta, Mayzent, Gilenya and Zeposia.
You can get your COVID-19 and flu vaccines at the same time. Most people who are eligible for the COVID-19 winter booster dose will also be eligible for a free flu vaccine.
For a list of MS medications and treatments and their associated recommendations regarding a third dose of the COVID-19 primary course of vaccination and immunocompromised groups, please click here.
There are also specific recommendations from ATAGI for people who have undergone haematopoietic stem cell transplants (HSCT) recently. All individuals should refer to the full Statement in consultation with their medical team to manage the best plan forward. If you are in any doubt about if and when you should have a COVID-19 vaccination you should discuss this with your specialist healthcare team.
To help address specific information you may be seeking about the pandemic and MS, please see the sections below with links to take you directly to your area of interes
We remain committed to providing the MS community with updated and current information regarding COVID-19 and vaccinations as it becomes available, including regular review of these web pages. However, this area is open to rapid change as new information becomes available and procedures are updated to reflect new data and government recommendations and restrictions.
A comprehensive list of the most common questions people living with MS may have regarding COVID-19 issues is provided here, including information on various MS medications.
Healthdirect Australia has developed a COVID-19 restriction tool to help Australians to easily obtain the information they need to understand current restrictions in their own area and what is limited and allowed. Information is updated multiple times a day from official sources across all states and territories, making it the only national central source of information about restrictions.
You can find the checker tool here: COVID-19 Restriction Checker Tool.
A group of local neurologists with a special interest in MS through the Australian and New Zealand Association of Neurologists (ANZAN), have together with MS Australia, provided COVID-19 vaccination guidance addressing many common questions from people living with MS.
The initial rollout phases of the COVID-19 vaccination program in Australia supported people with MS receiving vaccinations early, as part of phase 1b. The vaccine rollout has now been expanded into later phases to include all Australians over 12 years of age and from the 10 January 2022, children aged between 5 and 11 years.
If you have not yet received your COVID-19 vaccinations, please refer to the information on this link to help guide you in accessing this free service for Australian citizens.
An international MS group, led by the Multiple Sclerosis International Federation (MSIF) is gathering information about the pandemic and MS from all over the world. To access the latest information, please click here.
As the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccination roll-out remain global health priorities, collecting, sharing and analysing data from all around the world is more important than ever. This data sharing initiative means we will gain faster and more accurate insights into COVID-19 and MS, to help people with MS and their healthcare teams make evidence-based decisions on how to manage their condition during the pandemic, how to manage the illness if they develop a COVID-19 infection and how to manage the COVID-19 vaccination process.
For more information about how the MS global data sharing initiative works, and how the data is used, please click here.
The unique aspects of MS and specific medications make it difficult to give broad and general advice. If you still have questions that are not answered in these resources, please contact your neurologist, MS healthcare team or your GP. Together we can build on the extensive information we already have gained through the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to help people and families living with MS to live their best lives possible as we navigate this new world.