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After hearing that the most common flu shots involve chicken eggs, I searched for vegan flu shots. I haven't found anything conclusive.

What are my options if I want a flu shot but want to adhere to a vegan lifestyle?

One result that I keep seeing is Flublok.

One person mentioned that "Flublok uses insects."

This other person says:

So are these vegan? Yes, more or less. I’m comfortable calling the FluBlok vaccine vegan. I haven’t verified that its production uses no animal products, however this vaccine strategy does not require animal products fundamentally. Regardless whether it is strictly vegan, it is moving vaccines away from using eggs, which is something I’m happy to support.

Another blogger calls Flublok vegan too.

I haven't been able to figure out who makes Flublok (so that I could ask about whether it's vegan). Maybe Sanofi does?

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    Not really worthy of a full answer, but there's an outdated PDF advice from pharmacist.com regarding Flublok that states that (in 2015) they were marketing it as vegan. pharmacist.com/sites/default/files/… Doesn't mean it is, but it does mean that the company considered it worthy of research and publication and so more likely to be respond positively to scrutiny and provide formal answers to the question for their product, at least. Where possible I try to get company statements in writing and declare that I will publish their answers. – GutenBitter Jan 29 at 4:21
  • @GutenBitter Thank you for sharing! – Ryan Jan 29 at 19:33
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This is a very interesting question because it also deals with the limits of veganism.

Short answer

I could not find any reference to an existing vegan vaccine and I think it is very unlikely that one exists.

Longer answer

This is by design because it is a biologic product:

A vaccine typically contains an agent that resembles a disease-causing microorganism and is often made from weakened or killed forms of the microbe, its toxins, or one of its surface proteins

From a biochemical perspective this is a very complex cocktail and even if it would be feasible it would be much more expensive to produce an effective vaccine without involving animal products.

The broader picture

When you say vegan flu, it is also important to understand what "vegan" means. This article explains why being vegan and getting vaccination is possible if using a more practical definition of being vegan:

Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.

The same article provides a real-life example about the limits of veganism:

However, vaccines fall under the broad umbrella of medicine. Many/most vegans view medicine separate to veganism. If you go to A&E after falling off a roof, you’re not going to deny pain relief that may have animal derived ingredients or be treated by a surgeon who may have practiced on animals. It is neither possible nor practicable to withhold necessary medical treatment.

Also, it is important to understand that in the specific case of (some) vaccines, the herd immunity plays an important role:

(..) if large amounts of vegans started denying vaccines? Not only would groups of unvaccinated people being together be extremely dangerous to them, it would also allow diseases to spread beyond these groups.

Clearly helping spreading a potentially deadly disease is not in sync with being vegan (from a biological perspective humans are animals too).

In the specific case of flu, getting a vaccination might not be really necessary unless you are in one of the risk categories (e.g. children, seniors), but keep in mind that the flu is a contributor to death, even if it’s not the main cause

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  • While I appreciate the effort, I think this answer and that veggieathletic article miss the concept of speciesism / human supremacism. For example, a lot of people would disagree with "you’re not going to deny pain relief that may have animal derived ingredients". How would my pain in any way give me a moral right to inflict pain or death on any other animal? – Ryan Dec 21 '19 at 15:11
  • Similarly, let's imagine a world where all vaccines can only be created via intense cruelty to certain species. Contrary to what I think the article and you are suggesting, in that world, I would NOT fault anyone who declined the vaccine for moral reasons (e.g. vegans). – Ryan Dec 21 '19 at 15:11
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    @Ryan - in a world where all vaccines can only be created via intense cruelty to certain species, you are right because the "moral cost" for using the vaccine is very high. However, my answer focuses on the more realistic approach: it does not seem to be a way to produce a strictly vegan vaccine and there is also a non-vegan friendly consequence of not getting vaccinated. I am not really sure how vegans see preventable suffering and death due to low herd immunity, but is surely must be taken into account when deciding to vaccinate or not. – Alexei Dec 21 '19 at 15:19
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    Yeah I guess what you're bringing up is a form of en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trolley_problem – Ryan Dec 21 '19 at 15:30

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