If you have food allergies– you’ll want to read this!

So, it’s that time of year again, when Kleenex makes a killing in profits, when sick days are gobbled up, and when doctors start pushing the need for vaccinations.sick pic for blog

The controversy surrounding “Do I or Don’t I get a flu shot” takes center stage. From the minute you are out of the womb you should get a flu shot. Now, I could argue for and against this for hours on end, and probably get bogged down by many comments on the subject. But ultimately it’s your own personal decision on whether to get the flu shot, taking into consideration many factors including your age, how healthy you already are and food allergies. Yes I said food allergies. For those who don’t know enough about the flu vaccination, here is a snippet from the CDC:

  • “For the 2014-2015 influenza season, trivalent and quadrivalent inactivated influenza vaccines (IIVs) are available. All live, attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV) in the U.S. is quadrivalent. All recombinant influenza vaccine (RIV) is trivalent. Because LAIV is more efficacious than IIV against influenza among younger children, LAIV when immediately available, should be used unless contraindicated for healthy children aged 2 through 8 years.
  • Starting in 2014-2015, CDC recommends use of the nasal spray vaccine (LAIV) for healthy* children 2 through 8 years of age, when it is immediately available and if the child has no contraindications or precautions to that vaccine. Recent studies suggest that the nasal spray flu vaccine may work better than the flu shot in younger children. However, if the nasal spray vaccine is not immediately available and the flu shot is, children 2 years through 8 years old should get the flu shot. Don’t delay vaccination to find the nasal spray flu vaccine. For more information about the new CDC recommendation, see Nasal Spray Flu Vaccine in Children 2 through 8 Years Old or the 2014-2015 MMWR Influenza Vaccine Recommendations.

    (*“Healthy” in this instance refers to children 2 years through 8 years old who do not have an underlying medical condition that predisposes them to influenza complications.)

  • The trivalent IIVs and RIV protect against three influenza viruses – one influenza A (H3N2) virus, one influenza A (H1N1) virus, and one influenza B virus. Quadrivalent IIV and LAIV protect against the same three viruses as the trivalent vaccine, but also protect against an additional influenza B virus.
  • Two influenza vaccines, Flucelvax® and Flublok®, are manufactured using different production techniques. Flucelvax®, an IIV, is the first seasonal influenza vaccine licensed in the United States that is produced using cultured animal cells instead of fertilized chicken eggs. Flublok® is the first seasonal influenza vaccine made using recombinant techniques and does not use eggs at all in its production. Flublok® also does not use the influenza virus in its production. See How Influenza (Flu) Vaccines Are Made for more information.”

    Egg-Based Flu Vaccines

    “The most common way that flu vaccines are made is using an egg-based manufacturing process that has been in existence for more than 70 years. Egg-based vaccine manufacturing is used to make both inactivated (killed) vaccine (usually called the “flu shot”) and live attenuated (weakened) vaccine(usually called the “nasal spray”).

    The egg-based production process begins with CDC or another Influenza Collaborating Center providing private sector manufacturers with vaccine viruses grown in eggs per current FDA regulatory requirements. These vaccine viruses are then injected into fertilized hen’s eggs and incubated for several days to allow the viruses to replicate. The virus-containing fluid is harvested from the eggs. For flu shots, the influenza viruses for the vaccine are then inactivated (killed), and virus antigen is purified. The manufacturing process continues with purification and testing. For the attenuated nasal spray vaccine, the viruses are weakened rather than killed and go through a slightly different production process. The manufacturers then put doses into vials, syringes, or nasal sprayers while waiting for FDA testing and approval to release lots. Each lot must be approved separately for release by the FDA prior to shipment.

    There are many different manufacturers that use this production technology to make flu vaccines for use in the United States. This production method requires large numbers of chicken eggs to produce vaccine and usually takes the longest period of time to produce vaccine.”

Now– up until a few years ago, I didn’t know anything about the fact that most flu vaccines are made from eggs. After I what considered a hefty reaction (meaning I got a severe fever and was laid up for over a week) after receiving the flu shot, I decided to talk with my doctor. I told her I was very allergic to eggs growing up, but now I can eat them. I still have sensitivity to eggs. Because the flu shot is put directly into the blood stream, she advised against getting the shot even though I have a mild/moderate sensitivity only. Doctors have to be able to monitor patients who want the flu shot but are allergic to eggs. The CDC states that another form, RIV, can be administered in place of the regular flu vaccine. I believe it is made from cells and not harvested in chicken eggs. But whether or not it is effective in preventing some strain of the flu, I do not know. The Flucelvax® can be used, although from what I gather, not many doctors offices carry this brand.

My objective in sharing this information– to make sure that, for those of you with any type of food allergies, you have a heady conversation with your primary care physician. They need to know about your allergies, you need to be aware of what vaccines are made from, and you both need to decide together as a team what the best course of action is for you and/or your family.

Links to the CDC’s flu page have been provided if you would like further detailed information. No matter what news reports say or what the drug companies say, you are the one that needs to decide what’s best for your body. You are the parent of your children, not a drug company. You are your own best advocate (and that of your family). Ask questions, get information, have a frank conversation with your doctor, and you will find the best way to navigate the craziness of vaccinations. images

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