Hypersensitivity Reactions to Vaccine Components

Noushin Heidary; David E. Cohen


Dermatitis. 2005;16(3):115-120. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction

Vaccines are responsible for the control of many infectious diseases that were once common in the United States, including polio, measles, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), rubella (German measles), mumps, tetanus, and Haemophilus influenzae type b. National efforts to generate collaboration between federal, state, and local governments and public and private health care providers have resulted in record high levels of vaccination coverage in the United States. The high rate of US vaccinations is paralleled by growing concerns about the safety of their delivery. The variety of substances used in vaccines sometimes causes the development of cutaneous reactions in susceptible adults and children. This article will review adverse cutaneous events consistent with hypersensitivity reactions to the following ingredients in vaccines: aluminum, thimerosal, 2-phenoxyethanol, formaldehyde, and neomycin.

Vaccination is an effective method to reduce the prevalence of infectious diseases worldwide. With the increasing number of recommended available vaccines, there are growing concerns about potential adverse effects from multiple immunizations. Serious side effects from vaccines are rare, which indicates that the benefits inherent in their administration outweigh the possibility of a patient's developing a reaction to them.

A comprehensive table lists all Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved vaccines and pays particular attention to quantities of the components aluminum, thimerosal, formaldehyde, 2-phenoxyethanol, and neomycin.[1,2] Although other constituents of vaccines, such as egg protein and gelatin, can cause immediate immunoglobulin E (IgE)-mediated hypersensitivity reactions, this article will focus primarily on delayed hypersensitivity reactions; as such, egg protein and gelatin will not be further discussed.


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