When It Comes to Vaccines, It’s Okay to Be Chicken

Let's make some vaccine!

Let’s make some vaccine!

Good news for the roughly 600,000 Americans who suffer from allergic reactions to the incredible, edible egg; it is now officially safe for you to get a flu shot.

Assphincter says what, now?

For those of you in the know, further explanation isn’t required. But for those who don’t have any clue where vaccines typically come from, let’s explore.

When it comes to the age-old question of which came first, the vaccine or the egg, the answer is clear. In order to get a weakened virus to program your body’s immune system to recognize the virus, you first need an egg. You need a fertilized egg, at that. Tiny needles inject live viruses into the fertilized chicken eggs, where they’re kept in ideal surrounding to multiply like crazy. After enough time has passed – typically five to six months – the liquid teeming with live viruses is extracted and exposed to chemicals that deactivate the virus. Once that’s done, it’s safe to inject into people, giving their immune system a heads-up on what’s lurking out in the dark, dangerous world of immunobiology.

As you might expect, this process leaves a trace amount of proteins behind from the eggs in which the virus grew. And those proteins were thought to be potential hazards to people – especially children – who had shown sever allergic reactions to eggs in the past.

A recent study from the University of Michigan, however, has given the green light for everyone to go ahead and get the flu vaccine. Absolutely zero of the children with allergies reacted after receiving this year’s vaccine in a controlled test. Of course, the CDC still recommends that if you’re worried, kids that have shown allergic reactions before stick around a hospital for 30 minutes after vaccination, just in case.

The news comes out a bit late in the flu season, with New York and Boston already having had some pretty severe outbreaks. But there are still plenty of flu seasons yet to come.

And besides, it may not matter in the future. Making vaccines with eggs works well and all, but it requires one egg for every single vaccine treatment – adding up to a whole lot of eggs that could otherwise be used for omelets – and it takes way too damned long to make. That’s why many pharmaceutical companies out there are working on ways to create vaccines without the help of the lowly chicken. Instead, they’re going even lower, creating vaccines from cell lines and even simple DNA. In fact, the first flu vaccine made without eggs was just approved for use a couple of weeks ago in the US. Of course, until those methods are perfected and ramped up to astronomical numbers, the resulting shots are likely to be exorbitantly priced.

So I’d say for now, stick with the chicken-derived vaccines. Why not? They’re safe and they work.

The paper, “Safe administration of the seasonal trivalent influenza vaccine to children with severe egg allergy,” was published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology by Matthew Greenhawt, assistant professor of allergy and immunology at the University of Michigan.


About bigkingken

A science writer dedicated to proving that the Big Ten - or the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, if you will - is more than athletics.
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