Flu shot: New options, guidelines for those with egg allergy

The influenza virus has potential for morbidity and mortality. It also has associated costs to society in missed days of school, loss of workforce productivity and substantial health care expenditures. (Getty Images)

WASHINGTON – Chicken eggs have long been used in the production of injectable vaccines, prompting some allergy sufferers to shy away from flu shots.

But this flu season, there are two new vaccines for adults — Flucelvax and Flublok — and both are made using innovative production techniques.

Instead of eggs, Flucelvax uses animal cells as a host for the influenza virus, and Flublok uses a new gene technology to create a protein-based vaccine.

Flucelvax is approved for use in those 18 and older. Flublok is approved for those 18 to 49.

As for safe and effective use in children, research for the two new vaccines continues. If approved for use in children, the vaccine could bring relief to parents whose kids suffer from egg allergies.

In the meantime, recommendations on traditional flu vaccines for kids with allergies are being revisited.

“The regular flu vaccine that contains egg is no longer considered a contraindication for children with an egg allergy,” says Dr. Hemant Sharma, head of the Food Allergy Program at Children’s National Health System.

Last fall, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its revised guidelines, saying most children with an egg allergy can receive the flu shot.

Meanwhile, The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology — which represents the nation’s allergists — says no special precautions are needed, although procedures should always be in place to handle a life-threatening allergic reaction.

The CDC says the shots are OK for kids who get hives after eating eggs or egg-containing foods. But there is cause for caution for the small number of children with severe allergies who have bouts of hypertension, wheezing, vomiting or need emergency help after eating eggs.

Those cases should be evaluated by an allergist first, and Sharma says any allergic child should be monitored after getting a flu shot to make sure there is no sign of reaction.

In recent years, the flu mist has become a popular alternative for immunizing children against the flu, but Sharma warns it is a bad choice for those with allergies.

“The main reason is that many children who have a food allergy may also have asthma,” he says. “And it is not recommended that any child with asthma get flu mist.”

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