Flu Season 2017: People With Egg Allergies Can Get The Influenza Vaccine Safely

Every year, a large amount of eggs are used to produce the flu vaccine. Yes, eggs. That may just seem like a fun fact—unless you’ve got a serious egg allergy. People with serious egg allergies had to either skip the flu vaccine or get it done by a specialist—until recently. In a new paper published Tuesday, allergists confirm that the flu vaccine should be considered safe for people with the flu, echoing existing recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The paper, published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, is a practice parameter update, which makes recommendations for physicians to follow based on a team’s evaluation of scientific evidence. The report makes a strong recommendation that people with egg allergies—regardless of how severe those allergies may be—should still get the flu vaccine, based on data from more than two dozens studies.

According to the CDC, fewer than 500,000 American adults may be allergic to eggs—while 140,000 to 710,000 people have been hospitalized and 12,00 to 56,000 people have died every year since 2010 due to the flu.

The issue for people with allergies, according to the paper, is that the vaccine may continue to bear traces of where it was grown—specifically, there may be an egg protein called ovalbumin that finds its way into the shot. 

man getting flu shot T.C. Weber receives his H1N1 shot at the Delany Medical Center on November 11, 2009 in the Bronx borough of New York City. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Unfortunately, there are no easy, Egg Beaters-esque substitutes for biomedical uses. That doesn’t mean people aren’t trying to find a way to make flu vaccines without eggs. Two flu vaccines made mostly or entirely without eggs are already on the market, STAT reported. (Besides allergies, there are other good reasons to work on making vaccines outside of eggs. For example, it might actually make the vaccine work better.) 

Recommendations had changed in 2011, when the CDC suggested people with egg allergies should receive one particular type of the vaccine from someone (like an allergist) who was familiar with how egg allergies can look. Then, after being vaccinated, people with allergies were supposed to be monitored for 30 minutes to be sure there weren’t any serious reactions.

Now, none of those precautions are considered necessary.

Though the holiday season is already well underway and it may seem like it's too late to get the flu vaccine, experts say it's not. Flu seasons tend to happen in two different waves, each dominated by two different strains. The flu vaccine is intended to protect against strains that might appear in both waves—though it's not always super great at that. 

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