- Flu Prevention
Influenza Vaccines for People with Egg Allergies
May is Allergy Awareness Month!
There is a common misconception that people who are allergic to eggs cannot receive an influenza vaccine. Below, we outline the different reasons why most people with an egg allergy can still receive an annual flu vaccine. As always, please check with a trusted healthcare provider regarding any specific questions about your personal healthcare needs.
Why are eggs used for flu vaccines?
Every year, flu vaccines are manufactured to match the circulating flu viruses based on year-round, global surveillance. Egg-based manufacturing has been used for more than 70 years and is one of three ways flu vaccines are made (the other two manufacturing processes are cell-based and recombinant). Scientists inject viruses into eggs where they incubate and replicate. After the viruses have grown, they remove the virus from the egg and inactivate (kill) the parts of the virus that are alive. Then, they are left with purified antigen, which is the part of the virus in the vaccine that causes your body to produce an immune response (i.e., develop antibodies) without making you sick.
Is it safe to get a flu vaccine if I have an egg allergy?
Egg allergies can vary in severity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) separates people with egg allergies into two categories: 1) those who get hives after egg exposure, and 2) those who get a reaction after egg exposure that includes symptoms beyond just hives.
- For people who develop hives following egg exposure: The CDC states that hives after exposure to egg are not a reason to avoid getting a flu vaccine. While anaphylaxis is always a concern, this side effect is rare. In a Vaccine Safety Datalink study of more than 25.1 million doses of vaccines of various types given to children and adults over 3 years of age, only 33 individuals developed anaphylaxis.
- For people who get a reaction that includes symptoms beyond just hives following egg exposure: According to the CDC, if you experience any reaction beyond just hives after eating egg, you can still get a flu vaccine. However, vaccination should take place in a medical setting (e.g., doctor’s office, clinic, health department) with a healthcare provider who can recognize and manage severe allergic conditions and where you can be monitored following vaccination for any side effects.
In what situation should someone with egg allergies not get a flu vaccine?
The CDC states that a previous severe allergic reaction to a flu vaccine, regardless of the component suspected of being responsible for the reaction, is the only reason not to receive a flu vaccine. Speak with a trusted healthcare provider who knows your medical history best to determine if you do not qualify for flu vaccination.
Are any flu vaccines made without egg?
Yes, there are currently two available egg-free flu vaccines for individuals 4 years of age and older. The first, Flublok Quadrivalent, is licensed for use in adults 18 years and older; this is a recombinant vaccine. The second, Flucelvax Quadrivalent, is licensed for use in people 4 years of age and older and is a cell-based vaccine.