Egg Allergies and the MMR (Measles-Mumps-Rubella) Vaccine

I read that you should not vaccinate for MMR if your child has an egg allergy. I found out that my 17-month baby girl gets a rash from egg whites. What kind of problems can occur when she receives the MMR vaccine? Should she not have it?

Dr. Greene’s Answer:

The current measles-mumps-rubella vaccine (MMR) does not contain a significant amount of egg proteins (but two other vaccines do). As recently as 1994, the AAP recommended skin testing of all children with severe egg allergies before they received the MMR. This is no longer necessary. Even those with dramatic egg allergies are extremely unlikely to have an anaphylactic reaction to the MMR. The benefits of the vaccine far outweigh the risks.

Most people don’t know that some influenza vaccines may contain egg protein. People who react to eggs can generally still get the vaccine. If the reaction was more serious than just hives, with systemic symptoms, they can typically still get the vaccine, but should be with someone who knows how to handle an allergic reaction.*

The yellow fever vaccine also contains egg protein. Yellow fever is still a major problem for people living in or traveling to tropical South America or Africa. This vaccine can be very important. Thus, rather than skipping it, most candidates for the vaccine who have a suspected allergy should get a series of two skin tests with the vaccine. If both tests are fine, proceed with the vaccine. If either test shows a reaction, a process of desensitization is begun. Similar to allergy shots, a series of tiny doses of vaccine are given to reduce the risk of reaction.

Although egg protein in the MMR is no longer a big problem, if your child has severe allergies with systemic symptoms, whatever the cause, it pays to become familiar with the hidden ingredients found in products of all kinds.

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*Per the CDC: Persons with a history of egg allergy who have experienced only hives after exposure to egg should receive influenza vaccine. Any licensed and recommended influenza vaccine (i.e., any age-appropriate IIV or RIV3) that is otherwise appropriate for the recipient’s age and health status may be used.

Persons who report having had reactions to egg involving symptoms other than hives, such as angioedema, respiratory distress, lightheadedness, or recurrent emesis; or who required epinephrine or another emergency medical intervention, may similarly receive any licensed and recommended influenza vaccine (i.e., any age-appropriate IIV or RIV3) that is otherwise appropriate for the recipient’s age and health status. The selected vaccine should be administered in an inpatient or outpatient medical setting (including but not necessarily limited to hospitals, clinics, health departments, and physician offices). Vaccine administration should be supervised by a health care provider who is able to recognize and manage severe allergic conditions.

A previous severe allergic reaction to influenza vaccine, regardless of the component suspected of being responsible for the reaction, is a contraindication to future receipt of the vaccine.

Dr. Alan Greene

Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.

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  1. lloyd

    You are wrong, flu vaccination is not contraindicated in those with egg allergy. Please keep your site updated to communicate correct information.

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    • Thanks! You are absolutely right that the recommendations for people with serious egg allergy have changed (edited above). I’m still a fan of people with a serious egg allergy making sure the person giving the vaccine knows. And discussing with a physician the expected value of the flu vaccine in any given situation.

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