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Is the Swine Flu (H1N1) Vaccine Safe for Those with Egg Allergy?

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Updated July 09, 2009

Question: Is the Swine Flu (H1N1) Vaccine Safe for Those with Egg Allergy?
Answer:

Some batches of the swine flu vaccine being prepared by Novartis for the 2009 flu season will not include eggs in their production. Rather, they will use a so-called cell-culture process, which doesn't require eggs during any stage of the manufacturing process. However, due to high demand for the new vaccine, it is almost certain that existing manufacturing plants that use eggs to culture inactive viruses for vaccines will continue to produce some doses of flu vaccines for the upcoming flu season.

As of mid-2009, it is unclear whether doctors will be able to specifically request egg-free vaccines for patients with egg allergy. If you do have a severe egg allergy, you and your doctor will need to decide whether the potential risks of a flu vaccine outweigh the benefits of protection against the flu. Some possible alternatives include skin testing to the vaccine itself to see whether a reaction is likely, getting the vaccine in an allergist's office to ensure that emergency treatment is available in the event of a reaction, or having close contacts vaccinated to lower the likelihood of contracting the flu and taking an antiviral such as Tamiflu or Relenza at the first sign of flu symptoms, or taking them if you have had a known exposure. For more information on precautions for using egg-based vaccines in people with egg allergies, see Egg Allergies and Vaccines and Should You Get a Flu Shot?.

Sources:

Smith, Michael. "Drug Giant Uses Cells to Make H1N1 Vaccine." MedPage Today. June 12, 2009. Internet Resource. 5 July 2009.

United States Department of Homeland Security. "U.S. Policy Regarding Pandemic-Influenza Vaccinations". 5 July 2009.

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