What about the flu vaccine if my child has an egg allergy?
Vaccinating your children is very important to reduce the risk of them developing serious infections such as measles, meningococcal disease or whooping cough, amongst others. In Australia, influenza virus also presents a significant threat of disease. As recently as 2007, influenza was the 13th leading cause of death in Australia, taking the lives of three otherwise healthy preschool children from Western Australia that year.
Children aged 0-5 years are particularly susceptible to serious influenza infection. Unfortunately, this age group are also most likely to be affected by an egg allergy. Current influenza vaccines available in Australia and New Zealand are derived from influenza virus grown in chicken eggs and subsequently may contain traces of egg protein.
In the past, a history of egg anaphylaxis was considered a relative contraindication to influenza vaccination. However, vaccination virus production has improved significantly over the past three decades resulting in a greatly reduced amount of egg protein being present in current vaccines. In fact, numerous studies conducted over the last 10 years have shown no greater risk of influenza vaccine allergy in those with or without egg allergy.
The current recommendation from the Department of Health as well as the Australian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy is that egg-allergic children can be safely vaccinated with the influenza vaccine. This vaccine can be given from 6 months of age. Special precautions such as split dosing, allergy testing with the vaccines, or prolonged waiting times after administration are usually not required.
Other vaccines such as measles mumps rubella (MMR) or measles mumps rubella varicella (MMR-V) DO NOT contain egg protein and can be safely used in egg-allergic individuals. However, vaccines for yellow fever and Q fever still contain higher amounts of egg protein and it is recommended you seek an allergy specialist evaluation before vaccination.
If you are unsure about which vaccines are safe for your child, speak to your doctor who can refer you to a paediatric allergist if required.
For detailed information please visit www.allergy.org.au or www.health.gov.au/internet/immunise/publishing.nsf/content/Handbook10-home