Q:

7/3/2013
Do the influenza vaccines contain any gelatin? I realize there are many different brands of influenza vaccines on the market now, so any info you have of whether or not any or all of them contain gelatin would be appreciated.

I have a 4 year-old atopic female patient (has mild asthma and has IgE-mediated allergy to both sesame and garlic, both documented by IgE testing and oral challenge in my office) who had anaphylaxis 5-10 minutes after her flu vaccine was given last year that was witnessed and treated by her pediatrician (she did not need to go to ER, was successfully treated in ped's office). Her in-vitro gelatin IgE is positive at 10.90 kU/L. She has low level of detectable IgE to egg at 1.90 kU/L, and she has had a mild facial rash after eating French toast with egg. She is very picky so has never eaten pure cooked egg. Anyway, I don't have a high degree of suspicion that her anaphylactic reaction to flu vaccine was due to allergic reaction to egg protein in flu vaccine. I suspect it may be due reaction to gelatin or due to a viral protein in the vaccine, so that's why I am wondering if flu vaccine contains gelatin. (Never had an obvious reaction to ingested allergen, but has mild peri-oral rash after eating popsicles, which often contain gelatin).

A:

Thank you for your inquiry.

Here is a site that contains a list of all the contents of every flu vaccine. From this site, you will see that there are many possibilities for anaphylactic reactions in terms of the contents of each vaccine (which can differ). The information is of course too complex to copy and paste in this response. I would advise you therefore to look at each of the vaccines for the contents yourself. As noted, you will find multiple ingredients that could possible cause reactions including polysorbate, gentamicin, neomycin, polymyxin, et cetera, in different vaccines.

There is a very small amount of gelatin (hydrolyzed porcine, 200 mg) in FluMist and 0.05% gelatin in Fluzone, according to this site.

I do not know what vaccine your patient was given, but you might consider testing to a vaccine in this list which contains different contents.

Thank you again for your inquiry and we hope this response is helpful to you.

Sincerely,
Phil Lieberman, M.D.

AAAAI - American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology