Up to 500 million eggs are needed for flu vaccines every year

500 million eggs for the production of the flu vaccine

Year after year, health experts call for flu vaccination. What may surprise many: Up to 500 million hen's eggs are needed to produce the influenza vaccine. Because of the enormous number, alternatives have been researched for a long time, but according to experts, eggs will continue to play an important role in the manufacture of such drugs in the next 20 years.

Protection against infectious diseases

Vaccinations are an extremely effective remedy for various infectious diseases. Which vaccinations are advisable is determined in Germany by the Standing Vaccination Commission (STIKO) at the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). Although supply shortages of important vaccines in Germany have been reported in recent years, the population in this country is currently well supplied with them. What many people are not aware of is that eggs are needed to make vaccines - a huge amount of them.

Without eggs, no flu vaccine

Without eggs there would be no flu vaccine. Researchers have been experimenting with cell cultures for a long time, but eggs are still indispensable for the production of the vaccine.

As the head of the vaccine research department at the World Health Organization (WHO), Martin Friede, told the German press agency, between 450 and 500 million hen's eggs would be needed for vaccine production each year.

“More than 90 percent of the flu vaccine worldwide is produced with the help of eggs. An egg can usually be used to produce a vaccine dose, sometimes a little more, ”says the expert, according to dpa.

Yellow fever vaccine is also obtained with the help of eggs, but an egg can be obtained with significantly more doses than with the flu vaccine.

As explained in the agency announcement, the researchers do not use the eggs that are sold for consumption. Rather, specimens are needed for this, which are obtained from chickens in special farms under controlled conditions.

"This is more expensive than the production of eggs for the omelette," says Friede. The chickens are also not suitable for consumption. According to the expert, they are "too skinny".

Viruses are produced in selected laboratories

Twice a year, experts from the WHO advise which variants of the flu virus are likely to be expected in the coming season. They then recommend the composition of the vaccine.

According to the information, the viruses required for production are produced in selected laboratories and sent to the various vaccine factories.

There, according to Friede, the virus particles are injected into the protein from hatching eggs and mature into billions of copies of the virus over ten to eleven days before the protein is sucked off.

The virus particles would be deactivated by heat or chemical additives in order to produce a harmless but effective vaccine.

Research is being carried out on alternatives

According to Friede, research has been going on for a long time because of the enormous number of eggs required.

Around five to ten percent of the flu vaccines worldwide are already being developed on cell cultures obtained from a dog's kidney tumor. It is said that the cell line can be reproduced endlessly.

And in another process, the viruses grow on insect cells. "These are highly complex processes that have so far not been sufficiently available," according to dpa Friede.

"Eggs will continue to play a crucial role in the production of flu vaccine over the next 20 years."

However, this could sometimes cause production problems, because "in the case of the circulation of viruses that are dangerous for poultry, the chicken stocks for obtaining the required eggs could only be limited or not available at all," says the pharmacy textbook.

And further: "No chicken - no egg - no vaccine, that is the simple equation in conventional flu vaccine production based on hen's egg. The cell line, on the other hand, is ready for use even when there are unexpected requirements. ”(Ad)

Author and source information

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