One-dose Flu Shot May be Safe in Kids with Egg Allergies

Children with egg allergies may be able to safely get their flu shot in one dose, according to new study data.

By Kate H. Gamble, Senior Editor

Findings from a new study published in the Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology suggest that children with egg allergies may be able to safely get their flu shot in one dose, just like other kids.

Because the flu vaccine is grown in chicken eggs, there have traditionally been concerns about the safety of flu shots for people with egg allergies, most of whom are young children. Therefore, children with egg allergies often get their flu shot divided into smaller doses. For example, they might get 10% of the dose, and if they experience no allergic reaction, they will get the remainder of the dose 30 minutes later. Children with a history of severe allergic reaction to egg could get up to five small doses.

However, today’s flu vaccines actually contain minimal amounts of egg protein, said Susan Laubach, MD, senior researcher on the study and a physician at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC, in a Reuters Health article.

Previous research has indicated that flu vaccination is safe for most children with egg allergies. A 2010 Pediatrics study found that of 171 egg-allergic children who received a two-dose flu shot, more than 95% had no significant reaction, and just a few had mild symptoms like hives and itchy skin.

In the new study, which looked at the safety of single-dose vaccination, Laubach and her colleagues reviewed the records of 152 egg-allergic patients—mostly young children—who had received a seasonal flu shot and/or the vaccine against the H1N1 flu during the 2009-2010 season. All of the patients underwent skin-prick testing to determine whether they were likely to experience an immune reaction to the flu vaccine. Only one child had a positive result on the skin test, while six had unclear findings. So, most of the study group was given a single-dose flu shot.

Overall, Laubach's team found that none of the patients had a serious reaction to the vaccine, whether they received one dose or divided doses. That included the 22% of patients with a history of severe reactions to egg.

"The results of this study, combined with others, suggest that most kids with egg allergy can probably receive the flu vaccine safely," Laubach told Reuters Health.

The findings also suggest that many children can be vaccinated in one shot, which could help ease the fear and pain factors in young children.

However, more research is needed to confirm that, according to Laubach, who said that a clinical trial is now underway comparing two- and single-dose vaccination in egg-allergic kids.