How A Flu Shot Is Made

We have now entered flu season. Have you gotten your flu shot?

Depending on who you talk to, there are mixed opinions about getting a flu shot. Some people think it is completely necessary to get the shot to prevent sickness during a time when everyone is more susceptible. Others say that they want no part of the shot because the vaccination is actually injecting a strain of the flu virus into your arm.

I’ve never felt strongly one way or the other, but this year I was required to get a flu shot. So I did.

On my way to the doctor’s office to receive my shot, I started to wonder…how do they make a flu shot? If it is really a strain of a flu virus, where does the virus come from and how do they make it into a liquid? Are there just bottles of flu virus sitting around the doctor’s office? Sounds like the making of a Family Matter’s episode where Steve Urkel spills the flu bottles and then looks at the camera and says, “Did I do that?”

So I decided to ask the nurse who gave me my shot how they make the flu vaccine. Her response was a real shot to the arm (haha get it).

She said that the flu shot is grown in chicken eggs and they are able to extract the vaccine from the eggs.

She must have seen the confused look on my face because she said, “seriously, look it up.”

So that’s what I did. And after looking it up, I am even more amazed. You can find some great links about how a flu shot is made, here and here.

My nurse wasn’t lying. Flu shots are really manufactured in fertilized chicken eggs.

Each year, three strains are chosen for selection in that year’s flu vaccination by the World Health Organization’s Global Influenza Surveillance Network. That kind of sounds like an organization Tom Cruise might have worked for during one of the Mission Impossible movies.

Those strains are injected into the eggs. My brain is too small to understand exactly what happens next, but basically the strains multiply and mix around and eventually are taken out to create the vaccine. Here is an image that shows more detailed information.

I don’t know about you, but that is fascinating. And what is even harder to believe is that they have been growing flu shots in eggs since 1931. I don’t mean you could get a shot that is 82 years old. I doubt the shots are like wine and get better with age. What I mean is that they first started this process back in 1931. According to Wikipedia, some genius doctor named Ernest William Goodpasture and his colleagues at Vanderbilt University first reported viral growth of the flu vaccine in embryonated hens’ eggs.

Like I said, fascinating stuff.

Did reading all this scientific mumbo-jumbo make your head hurt? You might be coming down with the flu.

Does knowing all this make you more likely or less likely to get a flu shot this year? Or did you stop reading after my awful Steve Urkel joke?

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