Prognostic factors in multiple sclerosis: role of intercurrent infections and vaccinations against influenza and hepatitis B
After the publication of case reports of hepatitis B vaccinees with onset or relapse of multiple sclerosis (MS), followed by a media-driven scare campaign in France, the perception that hepatitis B vaccine causes MS has developed. This has led to a fall in the acceptance of hepatitis B vaccination particularly in French-speaking communities which was accelerated by court decisions in favour of vaccination "victims" and the suspension of routine vaccination of pre-adolescents in French schools as a "precautionary measure". This situation has arisen in spite of the absence of scientific data to support a causal link between vaccination and multiple sclerosis. In this article, initially written to inform and reassure employees of one of the vaccine manufacturers, the epidemiological importance of hepatitis B and current knowledge on the aetiology of MS are described. All available data that may throw light on the hypothesis that hepatitis B vaccination is causally linked to MS was reviewed. The conclusion reached on the basis of available data is that the most plausible explanation for the observed temporal association between vaccination and MS is that it is a coincidental association. It is now important to rebuild public confidence in hepatitis B vaccine as well as in vaccination in general.