Folks who've avoided flu vaccines because they're made with eggs now have an alternative. Last month, the Food and Drug Administration approved a new flu vaccine that's not only egg-free, but also free of mercury, antibiotics, preservatives, and even the influenza virus itself.
Instead of using chicken eggs and flu viruses to make the vaccine, the makers of the new Flublok use only virus proteins, which are produced with a little help from insect cells. The process might sound a bit gross, but it's actually already being used to make other vaccines, the FDA says. And other "iffy" flu vaccine ingredients—like mercury, preservatives, antibiotics, and the live virus—are left out of the equation, too.
According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, roughly 1.6% of kids are allergic to eggs, making eggs one of the most common childhood food allergens. Most people grow out of egg allergies eventually, but for an unlucky few, they last into adulthood.
Even though the FDA and allergy experts say that people with egg allergies can safely get a traditional flu vaccine, many egg allergy sufferers choose not to. Egg allergies can trigger a range of reactions, from rashes, hives, and nasal inflammation, to vomiting and digestive issues, and even rarely anaphylaxis. So it's easy see why the egg allergic would be needle-shy when it comes to the flu shot.
Even though the flu shot isn't 100% effective at preventing the flu (this year, it’s about 60% effective), experts say that getting one is still the best defense against getting sick. And this flu season has been a particularly nasty one. In fact, we're in the midst of a full-fledged epidemic. Flu emergencies have been declared in Boston and New York State, and the flu had been blamed for the deaths of 45 children by the end of January, says the CDC.
In addition to getting vaccinated, experts recommend common-sense flu-prevention measures, like frequent hand washing, avoiding sick people, keeping your hands away from your mouth and nose, and cleaning and disinfecting hard nonporous surfaces with products that kill cold and flu viruses. Seventh Generation Disinfecting Wipes do just that.
Will the new Flublok vaccine make you rethink your vaccine choices?