Wednesday, I received an email from a particularly conscientious professional who's in charge of Human Resources for a mid-sized company in Virginia.
With the subject line, "Need Vaccine Info Please," she wrote:
"Dear Wendy, Our company nurse just informed our employees that she doesn't recommend the flu shot because of all the ‘other stuff' that's in it – like aborted fetal tissue. Do you have any information with regards to this matter? My employees are crossing their names off in droves from our sign-up sheet for the free flu shot clinic we've planned on providing next week. Thank you so much."Okay, after my initial shock that anyone in the public health field would actually promulgate such drivel, I conducted a search to see why anyone – and particularly a nursing professional – would even think this possible. To my shock (again), there is indeed a ton of misinformation (and frankly, ridiculous "data") available online regarding the flu vaccine.
Although, in all fairness, I can see how (to the untrained eye) one might get sucked into believing the false information, as some of it does have a sciencey flair to it – albeit commingled with "big pharma" and government conspiracy theories.
So, in the event that there are those of you reading this who've been erroneously told that there's fetal tissue in the flu vaccine, the reality is, there is no chance (as in zero chance) of any human tissue in the flu vaccines – be it the shot or the nasal spray version.
Let me say that again so that there's no misunderstanding: There is absolutely no fetal tissue whatsoever in the flu vaccine. How can I be so sure? The virus that's used to make the flu vaccine is grown in chicken eggs. Of course, if you have a severe egg allergy, your doctor shall surely advise you to not get the flu vaccine – but still, nobody here but us chickens.
To learn more about this year's (2009-2010) inactivated influenza vaccine (including that it's made in chicken eggs), the CDC offers this easy-to-understand material. Click here (in PDF format). And to learn more about this year's nasal flu vaccine (yes, also made in chicken eggs), the CDC offers this easy-to-understand material. Click here (in PDF format).
Oh, just in case you're wondering, shortly after the H.R. professional provided her employees with the correct, evidence-based scientific information, the sign-up sheets are again, filling up. And to the nurse who provided the misinformation – while I thank her for trying to do right by her clients, I nonetheless offer her the following: No Virginia, there is no aborted fetal tissue in flu vaccines.