By Renee Watson, R.N.C., B.S.N., C.P.H.Q., C.I.C., Infection Prevention Manager
How many times did your parents say something like “If all of your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?” While not following the crowd is good advice in some situations, when it comes to the flu vaccine the opposite is true.
In recent years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) made a change to its stance on the flu vaccine, suggesting universal vaccination. Previous advice always included at-risk groups, including mild asthmatics and people over 60, but now anyone over the age of 6 months is encouraged to get the vaccine.
Because children who are younger than 6 months of age cannot get a vaccine, it is up to all of us keep those children safe by protecting ourselves. It is called herd immunity. If we immunize the herd, those who are not immunized will not get sick because no one else gets the vaccine-preventable disease.
Every year as the weather gets colder, people make all kinds of excuses not to get a flu vaccine. But one legitimate excuse from the past is no longer valid, based on some new research. In years past, people with egg allergies were excluded from receiving the vaccine because of its origin—the vaccine is grown in chicken eggs.
The fact is there is so little exposure to eggs through a flu vaccine that it is not likely to cause any allergic reaction. A study by Canadian researchers tracked 367 egg-allergic people, most of whom were children. The results showed that none had a serious reaction to the vaccine and only 13 had mild “allergy-like” symptoms.
For the last few years, we have required all employees to receive a flu vaccine. In that time no employee has had an issue with the vaccine, including some employees with egg allergies.
People with egg allergies should talk to their doctor, who may opt to send the patient to an allergist. A flu vaccine challenge can be conducted. During the test, one-tenth of the dose is administered. If there is no reaction within a few minutes, then the remainder of the dose is given. Once it is given safely, that person can receive a regular flu shot in upcoming years.
Not only should you get a flu vaccine, you should also push your friends to “go jump off the bridge” with you.