Vaccines and Food Allergies - Do I need to Worry?
Is there a problem with vaccines in people with food allergies? The quick answer is yes and no. People with food allergies will
be fine with most vaccines. However, there are several vaccines that you may need to be careful with.
The main issue with food allergies and vaccines has to do with eggs. In order to make vaccines, some require the incubation of
a virus in chicken eggs or chicken embryo. This means that some egg proteins may end up in some vaccines.
In order to manufacture the flu vaccine (including the H1N1 vaccine), the virus (influenza virus) is grown in chicken eggs. In the
past it was felt that individuals allergic to eggs or chicken should not receive the flu vaccine. However, recent studies show that
egg allergic individuals can safely receive the injectable flu vaccine. The latest guidelines state that individuals who only develop
hives with egg ingestion can receive the injectable flu vaccine at their primary care provider's office and be monitored for 30
minutes afterwards. Individuals who develop severe reactions to eggs should only receive the flu vaccine at an allergist clinic, just
to be safe.
The Yellow Fever vaccine is one vaccine that should be avoided if you have a history of egg or chicken allergies. This vaccine
actually contains a higher amount of egg proteins than the flu vaccine, and cases of allergic reactions in egg allergic patients
receiving the vaccine have been reported. Desensitization to the vaccine can be undertaken for patients that have a strong need
for the vaccine.
One vaccine that often gets a bad rap in relation to egg allergies is the Measles Mumps Rubella (MMR) vaccine. However, it does
not deserve this reputation. While this vaccine is prepared in chicken embryo tissue, the amount of egg protein found in the
vaccine is so small that egg or chicken allergic people can receive the vaccine safely. However, there have been reports of
allergic reactions to the MMR vaccine in patients allergic to gelatin (such as found in Jell-0). Therefore, people allergic to gelatin
should not receive the MMR vaccine.
updated 2 October 2013