Gelatin allergy and vaccines

What is gelatin

Gelatin is a protein product derived from collagen. It is added to some vaccines to act as a stabiliser to ensure they remain effective after manufacture. The type of gelatin used in vaccines (usually porcine in origin) is different from the gelatin used in foods (usually bovine in origin) and is highly purified.

Gelatin allergy

The incidence of anaphylaxis to gelatin is extremely low. Some individuals with an allergy to gelatin will react to the ingestion of gelatin. Others react only when a vaccine containing gelatin is injected or with the use of intraoperative hemostatic agents (e.g. surgical Gelfoam®).

Gelatin and vaccines

Gelatin in vaccines can cause allergic reactions therefore people with severe allergies to gelatin should avoid gelatin-containing vaccines.

Patients who report allergic reactions to the ingestion of gelatin should seek expert advice before receiving any vaccine containing gelatin.

Vaccines licensed in Australia which contain gelatin (porcine)

  • MMRII® (measles-mumps-rubella)
  • ProQuad® (measles-mumps-rubella-varicella)
  • Varivax® (varicella)
  • Zostavax® (varicella-zoster)
  • Rabavert® (rabies)
  • Merieux® (rabies)
  • Vivotif® (typhoid)

If you have any concerns regarding a gelatin allergy and immunisation, please discuss with a healthcare professional or immunisation specialist. 

Resources

Authors: Adele Harris (SAEFVIC Research Nurse, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute), Nigel Crawford (Director, SAEFVIC, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute), Kirsten Perrett (Clinician Scientist Fellow, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute) & Nicole Wong (Immunisation Fellow, Royal Children's Hospital)

Reviewed by: Rachael McGuire (SAEFVIC Research Nurse, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute)

Date: July 2020

Materials in this section are updated as new information and vaccines become available. The Melbourne Vaccine Education Centre (MVEC) staff regularly reviews materials for accuracy.

You should not consider the information in this site to be specific, professional medical advice for your personal health or for your family’s personal health. For medical concerns, including decisions about vaccinations, medications and other treatments, you should always consult a healthcare professional.


G6PD deficiency and vaccines

What is it?

G6PD deficiency is a genetic disorder in which the body doesn’t have enough of an enzyme (chemical) called glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD). G6PD is important in keeping red blood cells healthy so they can function properly.  

The lack of G6PD can lead to destruction of red blood cells (haemolysis) when the person is exposed to certain foods, infections or specific medications. The red blood cells carry oxygen around the body, and the excessive breakdown of red blood cells can lead to anaemia, which can cause fatigue, jaundice (yellow skin or eyes), shortness of breath and other symptoms.

G6PD is an inherited condition and cannot be spread from one person to another. The condition is more common in males and is usually passed on to male children from their mother. Most people with G6PD deficiency don't have any symptoms. There is no cure for G6PD deficiency, and it is a lifelong condition. Managing G6PD deficiency involves avoiding foods and medications that can trigger the condition [see resources].

G6PD and immunisations

If you are G6PD deficient then prevention of infection is important.  There is no scientific evidence that vaccines are a medication that will trigger an episode. Therefore, immunisations are not contraindicated in people with G6PD deficiency.

Resources

Authors: Georgina Lewis (SAEFVIC Clinical Nurse Manager, Murdoch Children's Research Institute) and Nigel Crawford (Paediatrician, The Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne)

Reviewed by: Georgina Lewis (SAEFVIC Clinical Nurse Manager, Murdoch Children's Research Institute)

Date: July 2020

Materials in this section are updated as new information and vaccines become available. The Melbourne Vaccine Education Centre (MVEC) staff regularly reviews materials for accuracy. 

You should not consider the information in this site to be specific, professional medical advice for your personal health or for your family's personal health. For medical concerns, including decisions about vaccinations, medications and other treatments, you should always consult a healthcare professional.


Guillain-Barre Syndrome

Background

Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) is an autoimmune condition whereby the body’s own immune system can attack the nerves, damaging the myelin (insulating layer) and sometimes the axon (nerve fiber). This damage can result in symptoms of muscle weakness, altered sensation, numbness and paralysis.

The rate of GBS is approximately 2 in every 100,000 people per year. The syndrome is often triggered following a viral or bacterial illness usually occurring 1-3 weeks prior to symptoms developing. As an example, ‘wild-type’ influenza and campylobacter are infections known to be associated with GBS.

Symptoms usually start in the lower extremities and progress up the body over a few days or weeks. There is no known cure but therapies include intravenous immunoglobulin. Most cases spontaneously recover although this may take from 6 months to 2 years. Approximately 10-15 percent of GBS cases can result in permanent disability.

GBS and influenza vaccines

Influenza vaccination has been identified as a possible cause following H1N1 containing vaccines, but the evidence is variable and at a very low rate, definitely lower than the rate of GBS caused by ‘wild type’ influenza. As per the AusVaxSafety clinical resources flow chart  [see resources], influenza immunisation is generally not recommended for people with a history of GBS occurring within 6 weeks of receiving a previous influenza vaccine. However specialist immunisation advice should be sought to discuss the potential benefit of vaccination and the risk for GBS recurrence post vaccination or GBS recurrence post influenza disease. There are no concerns administering influenza vaccines to patients who have a history of developing GBS more than 6 weeks following an influenza vaccine.

GBS and meningococcal vaccines

There is no increased risk of developing GBS after receiving meningococcal vaccinations. People with a history of GBS can safely receive meningococcal vaccines. It is also safe for them to receive all of the other routine National Immunisation Program (NIP) and travel vaccines as required.

GBS and COVID-19 vaccines

Having a history of GBS is not a contraindication to receiving a COVID-19 vaccine and as such it is safe to administer in this patient group. There have been no reported cases of GBS following COVID-19 immunisation among participants in clinical trials.

Resources

Authors: Rachael McGuire (SAEFVIC Research Nurse, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute) and Nigel Crawford (Director SAEFVIC, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute)

Reviewed by: Rachael McGuire (MVEC Education Nurse Coordinator)

Date: February 2021

Materials in this section are updated as new information and vaccines become available. The Melbourne Vaccine Education Centre (MVEC) staff regularly reviews materials for accuracy.

You should not consider the information in this site to be specific, professional medical advice for your personal health or for your family’s personal health. For medical concerns, including decisions about vaccinations, medications and other treatments, you should always consult a healthcare professional.