Influenza Vaccine Well Tolerated in Children With Egg Allergy, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC Study Finds

November 24, 2010

Children with egg allergies may be able to receive influenza vaccination if properly administered, according to a Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC study.

During the 2009-2010 flu season, allergists at Children’s Hospital provided flu vaccines containing the highest content of egg protein available and found that the vaccine was well tolerated in egg-allergic children. Results of the study by Gregory Owens, M.D., and Andrew J. MacGinnitie, M.D., Ph.D., are published online this week in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. Researchers administered the vaccine in a two-step process, giving 10 percent of the vaccine initially and then observing the patient for allergic reaction for up to 30 minutes before providing the remaining 90 percent of the vaccine.

“While current guidelines recommend against vaccinating children with egg allergy, the risk is not clear or fully understood. The results of our and other studies indicate that using the two-step protocol allows egg allergic patients to safely receive the influenza vaccination,” said Dr. Owens, an allergist/immunologist at Children’s Hospital. “Families of children with egg allergy should consider vaccination using this protocol because influenza causes significant morbidity and mortality every season.”

Children’s researchers gave a total of 96 vaccinations to 64 patients and observed four mild allergic reactions, including redness and rashes. No patients developed anaphylaxis. For this study, Children’s used the Sanofi-Pasteur seasonal and H1N1 vaccines, which contain the highest levels of egg protein among available vaccines.

“It’s reassuring that even using these higher egg protein-content vaccines, no patients developed anaphylaxis,” Dr. Owens said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, annual outbreaks of the seasonal flu usually occur during the late fall through early spring. Most people have natural immunity, and a seasonal flu vaccine is available. In a typical year, approximately 5 to 20 percent of the population gets the seasonal flu. Flu-related deaths range from 3,300 to 48,600 (average 23,600).

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