The new (2011) recommendations on influenza immunization from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices were released today. The recommendations are not really different from last year’s, but this document includes some new information that may answer some questions people have about the topic.
This year’s vaccine is made from the same virus strains as last year’s vaccine. Some peoople have questioned whether we need to get this year’s vaccine if we got one last year. The answer is yes. Protection declines over a year, and you need another immunization this year to give you optimal protection.
The document also explains the issue of egg allergy and flu vaccines. Flu vaccines are made in chicken eggs, and a very small amount of egg can sometimes be found in the vaccine. If someone is very highly allergic to egg protein, they can have a reaction to the vaccine. This kind of allergy is very rare. Many doctors prefer not to immunize someone who says they once had a “reaction” to eggs. The guidelines clearly say that most of these people can and should get their annual flu immunization, but they may need to be observed for a little while after their dose or they should be seen by an allergist before they take the vaccine. Too many people are being excluded from protection against influenza because people don’t understand the egg connection. The recommendations include an algorithm that will help sort out the egg allergy issue.