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What Are The Flu Vaccine Ingredients You Need To Know?

October 27, 2020

With so much attention being focused on the coronavirus, it’s important to remember that flu season is right around the corner. The best way to protect yourself is to get vaccinated. Some people worry about the flu vaccine ingredients that are used, but you shouldn’t be.

Your biggest concern should be that influenza still causes widespread sickness and death.

Researchers with the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention estimate that anywhere from 39 million to 56 million people in the United States battled influenza during the 2019-2020 flu season. There were between 410,000 and 740,000 hospitalizations and between 24,000 and 62,000 deaths from the flu last year.

The official numbers from the 2018-2019 flu season show that 35.5 million people in the United States contracted the virus. Another 490,000 people were admitted to the hospital, and more than 34,000 died.

So, if you’re not getting the flu vaccine because you’re afraid of the ingredients it contains, let’s take a look at the ones you need to know about.

What Flu Shot Ingredients Do

According to the CDC, each ingredient in a vaccine serves a specific purpose. In general, though, flu vaccine ingredients are combined to do three things:

  • Provide immunity
  • Keep the vaccine safe and long-lasting
  • Produce the vaccine

The ingredients are combined in a way to ensure your safety and protection.

Types Of Flu Vaccines

Before we get to the ingredients, it’s important to understand that when you get vaccinated for the flu you have a choice of getting an injection or a nasal spray.

The nasal spray influenza vaccine does contain live viruses. However, the viruses are weakened), so that they will not cause the flu to develop. The weakened viruses are also designed to only multiply at the cooler temperatures found within the nose. They cannot infect the lungs, where body temperature is higher.

All shot forms of the flu vaccine are inactivated and made of particles of the virus. These particles are not biologically alive and therefore can't cause disease.

That being said, the basic ingredients of a flu vaccine are the same.

Flu Shot Ingredients

Here are the typical flu vaccine ingredients, according to the CDC. Researchers say today’s vaccines use only the ingredients they need to be as safe and effective as possible. They include:

  • Egg protein. Many flu vaccines are made by growing the viruses inside fertilized chicken eggs, but if you’re allergic to eggs, studies show the use of both the nasal spray vaccine and flu shots in egg-allergic patients indicate that severe allergic reactions are unlikely.
  • Adjuvants help stimulate a stronger immune response. For example, aluminum salts.
  • Preservatives (like thimerosal) are added by vaccine manufacturers to multidose vaccine vials to help prevent contamination.
  • Stabilizers help with the effectiveness of the vaccine.
  • Antibiotics also help prevent contamination.
  • Polysorbate 80 helps to hold all of the ingredients together. It’s also a common food additive.
  • Formaldehyde is used in the production of some vaccines to inactivate toxins from bacteria and viruses. There is 50 times more formaldehyde in a pear than there are in any vaccine.

There are more ingredients that are used in vaccines than listed here, but we’re focusing on those that may cause some alarm.

Vaccination Is Your Best Protection Against The Flu

An annual flu vaccine is the best way to protect against this potentially serious disease. Here’s what a flu shot can do for you:

  • Flu vaccination can reduce flu illnesses, doctor visits, missed work, and school due to flu, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations.
  • Flu vaccination also may make your illness milder if you do get sick.
  • Getting vaccinated yourself protects people around you, including those who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness, like:
    • Older people
    • People with certain chronic health conditions
    • Babies and young children

According to the CDC, a 2014 study showed that flu vaccine reduced children’s risk of flu-related pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) admission by 74% during flu seasons from 2010-2012.

It’s been 75 years since the flu vaccine was developed, and it’s never too late to start getting it if you’re not already.

To get the flu shot, contact your North Ohio Heart/Ohio Medical Group primary care physician, or if you don’t have one, you can find a doctor online.

NOH Meet Dr. Truong

And for tips on the most effective ways to prevent the flu and coronavirus, warning signs of flu-like symptoms compared to COVID-19, and what you can do in your daily life to decrease your risk of getting both, you can check out our interactive webpage “Flu vs. Coronavirus.” And if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms, please make an appointment with your doctor immediately.

Flu vs Coronavirus