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I Have a Vaccine Allergy Due to Foods. Can I Still Get Vaccinated?

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Updated October 29, 2009

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Question: I Have a Vaccine Allergy Due to Foods. Can I Still Get Vaccinated?
A vaccine allergy can occur because of the presence of a food allergy. Many vaccines, including those routinely given to children and adults, contain various food proteins that could cause severe allergic reactions in people with allergies to them (about 8% of children and 2% of adults).
Answer:

It is possible, but whether or not this is an option for you is something that needs to be figured out by your allergist.

People with egg allergy may experience allergic reactions when given influenza vaccines (including the seasonal and H1N1 varieties, injected and nasal routes), the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, as well as the yellow fever and typhoid vaccines.

Those with gelatin allergy may experience allergic reactions to the MMR, varicella (chicken-pox), influenza and DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis), yellow fever, rabies, and Japanese encephalitis vaccines.

Lastly, those with a baker’s yeast allergy may experience an allergic reaction to the hepatitis B vaccine.

In order to determine if there is a way for you to receive a given vaccine safely, specific steps have to be taken.

An experienced allergist can perform a procedure called a prick-and-progressive challenge. This procedure begins with skin testing to the specific food contained within the vaccine (to confirm your food allergy). If this skin test is normal, meaning you actually don't have an allergy to the food after all, then the vaccine can be given as usual. If the test is positive, then additional skin testing is performed to the vaccine itself to gauge further whether or not it is safe for you to have.

Normal results mean that the vaccine can be given. Positive results often mean that the vaccine can still be administered, just in small amounts given slowly over many hours -- a process known as desensitization.

While prick-and-progressive vaccine challenge procedures are relatively safe and tolerated by most people, the decision to proceed with vaccine desensitization for those with positive vaccine skin testing should be based weighing the benefit of receiving the vaccine against the risk of an allergic reaction to it.

If you have a confirmed food allergies that prevent routine vaccine administration, you should have a careful discussion with your personal physician regarding the risks and benefits of undergoing vaccine desensitization.

Learn more about vaccines and food allergy.

Source:

Moylett EH, Hanson IC. Mechanistic actions of the risks and adverse events associated with vaccine administration. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2004; 114:1010-20.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this site is for educational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for personal care by a licensed physician. Please see your physician for diagnosis and treatment of any concerning symptoms or medical condition.

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