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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — When it comes to the flu vaccine, UPMC, in most doctors’ offices, is going egg-free.
“It appears to work better, about 10 percent better in a typical year,” Dr. Richard Zimmerman, UPMC family medicine and vaccine advisor, said.
In studies, this was most notable among older adults.
The brand name for the vaccine made with viruses and insect cells instead of chicken eggs is Flublok, and it’s available to adults only. For children 4 years of age and older, a version made with canine kidney cells instead of eggs called Flucelvax is available.
“So two different manufacturers, we do have competition in this market,” Zimmerman said. “Insurance is covering this.”
No egg-free versions have been FDA-approved for children 6 months to 4 years. They can still get the egg-based Fluzone, though.
“I think that in 10 years, the egg-based products will not be used very much at all,” Zimmerman said.
The Allegheny County Health Department will be offering regular flu shots and the Allegheny Health Network will be vaccinating with egg-based shots unless a patient has a severe egg allergy.
“For patients who have a mild or moderate allergy, they will actually tolerate the traditional egg-based vaccine,” Dr. Marc Itskowitz with AGH Internal Medicine said. “But the influenza experts in this country have not concluded that we should use it throughout the whole population.”
The best time to get the flu vaccine is September and October. The first cases of flu are typically in November.
“We’re constantly looking for a better flu vaccine, but for now, the most important thing is to get a vaccine,” Itskowitz said. “Getting the vaccine is your best weapon to prevent it.”
The vaccines this year cover H1N1, H3N2 and two types of Influenza B. Last year in Allegheny County, we had more than 12,000 reported cases of flu, nearly 800 hospitalizations and 31 deaths.