Vax Maine Kids encourages all parents to protect their children with safe, effective vaccines. But there are some reasons why a small percentage of children can’t get vaccinated—they may be too young, they may be receiving chemotherapy, they may have weak immune systems, or they may be allergic to ingredients in vaccines or vaccine packaging. Which allergies prevent children from getting certain vaccines? Are there other ways to vaccinate children with these allergies? And how can we help kids with rare, severe allergies stay safe and protected against the diseases vaccines can prevent?
Bad reactions to vaccines are very, very rare, but when they do happen, an allergy is often the cause. Vax Maine Kids has compiled a quick reference guide for Maine parents on the most common allergies that can potentially cause a bad reaction to a vaccine: eggs, gelatin, antibiotics, yeast, and latex.
If your child has a known allergy that isn’t on this list and you’re still concerned, talk to your child’s doctor. Even children with severe allergies to eggs, peanuts, dairy, wheat, corn, soy, fish, and shellfish can and should be vaccinated safely against dangerous diseases. And that’s a good thing! Parents of children with severe allergies have so many things to worry about. Isn’t it great that dangerous, preventable diseases don’t have to be one of them?
- My child is allergic to eggs – can they still be vaccinated?
YES. If your child is allergic to eggs, they can still be vaccinated. The only childhood vaccine that currently contains egg proteins is the influenza vaccine. And, in recent years, scientists have lowered the amount of egg proteins in the flu shot so much that only people with really severe allergies to eggs need to avoid it. This year, a new, egg-free flu shot was created just for people with egg allergies! This is great news as influenza is still a dangerous (even deadly) illness and annual flu shots are a very important part of keeping children safe and healthy during flu season.
- My child is allergic to gelatin – can they still be vaccinated?
MAYBE. In this case, talk about vaccines with your child’s doctor. For kids with an allergy to gelatin, certain vaccines might cause an allergic reaction. This is very rare, but it can happen—there is a one in two million chance that certain vaccinations will aggravate a gelatin allergy. Gelatin is used in some vaccines as a stabilizer, and it is found in foods like Jell-O, Pop Tarts, marshmallows, and even in some frozen vegetables, yogurts, cream cheeses, and cereals. If your child needs to avoid these foods because of a gelatin allergy, they might need to avoid certain vaccines.The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has a great list of the vaccines that contain gelatin.
- My child is allergic to a type of antibiotics – can they still be vaccinated?
YES. Most vaccines contain no antibiotics at all! Small amounts of antibiotics are used in some vaccines to keep them from spoiling, but these antibiotics are not the type that can cause allergic reactions in people with antibiotic allergies. In fact, there are no known cases of antibiotics in vaccines causing an allergic reaction in a child. If your child has a known allergy to neomycin, polymyxin B, streptomycin, or gentamicin,check out the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s full list of antibiotics in vaccines and talk to your child’s doctor.
- My child has a yeast allergy – can they still be vaccinated?
YES. The trace amounts of baker’s yeast found in some vaccines have never been shown to trigger a reaction in children with yeast allergies. If your child has a yeast allergy and you are worried about a reaction to a vaccine, you can discuss this list of vaccines containing small amounts of yeast with your child’s doctor.
- My child has an allergy to latex, – can they still be vaccinated?
YES, UNLESS YOUR CHILD’S LATEX ALLERGY IS LIFE THREATENING. If your child has a known allergy to latex, their health care providers are already taking very careful precautions every time they see your child. Latex is used in the packaging of some vaccines, but never in the vaccine itself, so only a severe allergy to latex prevents a child from getting vaccinated. If your child has a known latex allergy, review the Centers for Disease Control’s list of vaccines with latex packaging with your child’s doctor and talk about safe ways to vaccinate your child.
Maine parents should rest easy knowing that most allergies won’t keep children from getting safe, effective vaccines on time. But if you or someone you know does have one of the very rare allergies that keep them from getting a vaccine, they may still be protected if enough people who can be vaccinated are vaccinated.
“Herd immunity” is a protection provided to those who are unvaccinated when enough people (usually more than 85% of a population) are vaccinated against a disease. Herd immunity reduces the likeliness that outbreaks of a disease happen. When there is herd immunity in a community, the youngest, weakest, and sickest people are safer and less likely to be exposed to diseases they can’t fight off. Herd immunity is just one of the many reasons why everyone who can be vaccinated should be vaccinated.
When you and your family get your shots, you’re not just keeping your family safe and healthy. You’re helping to keep all Maine families safe and healthy!