Antivaxxers are criticising a hospital for offering free influenza vaccine, claiming that they are expiring soon and made from dog cells.
Find out what is going on, and whether the influenza vaccine is made from dog cells, and if you should take influenza vaccine that is expiring soon!
Free Influenza Vaccine?
The controversy started when Thomson Hospital Kota Damansara started offering free influenza vaccinations as a CSR initiative.
From 20 June to 27 June 2020, they would offer a free influenza vaccine for up to 200 patients a day.
Free Influenza Vaccine, But Expiring Soon?
Dr. Mohamed Al-Hadi posted excitedly about the CSR initiative in his Facebook post yesterday. As he pointed out – this is a rare opportunity to receive a free influenza vaccine.
But antivaxxers noticed that in the picture shared by Dr. Mohamed Al-Hadi, the syringes had an expiry date of 27 June 2020.
One person specifically posted this warning with the screenshots above, highlighting the expiry date (with our English translation below) :
Free Influenza Vaccine Expiring Soon : Should You Take It?
Now, let’s look into the claims above and see what the facts are regarding this free influenza vaccine CSR initiative by Thomson Hospital Kota Damansara…
Fact #1 : Those Are SKYCellflu Quadrivalent Vaccines
Assuming that the picture shared shows the exact vaccine Thomson Hospital is giving away for free, it is the SKYCellflu Quadrivalent influenza vaccine from South Korea.
As a quadrivalent vaccine, it offers protection against the four influenza viruses most likely to cause illness in the current season.
Fact #2 : SKYCellflu 2020 Vaccines In Malaysia All “Expire” On 27 June
According to the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency of Malaysia, all 15,000 doses of SKYCellflu Quadrivalent vaccines imported into Malaysia in February 2020 will expire on 27 June 2020.
That expiry date is not based on when the vaccine was manufactured, but when the WHO predicts that a new formulation may be needed (see Fact #3).
Fact #3 : Expiration Date Has A Different Meaning In Influenza Vaccines
Influenza vaccines are not food products. Their expiration date is not an indication of when they are about to go “bad”.
Rather, their expiration date tells doctors when they should use a different vaccine formulation, for better protection against the constantly mutating viruses and changing virus circulation.
As long as the influenza vaccine administered has not reached its expiration date – it is the formulation that offers the best protection you can get for that flu season.
Fact #4 : Expired Influenza Vaccines Still Work
When influenza vaccines reach their expiration date, they don’t stop working. They are just presumed to be less effective, as the circulating viruses may have changed.
As the CDC notes, “Vaccination with an expired influenza vaccine might not protect against influenza infection because different influenza virus strains can be included in the vaccine each year; in addition, protection against viruses included in the vaccine could wane if vaccine potency decreases over time“.
The fact is – even an expired influenza vaccine will offer better protection than no influenza vaccine at all.
Fact #5 : Those Are Perfectly Good Influenza Vaccines
Those SKYCellflu Quadrivalent vaccines Thomson Hospital is giving away are perfectly good influenza vaccines as long as they are used by 26 June 2020.
Yes, they are giving away something that they can no longer administer or sell from 27 June 2020 onwards, but that doesn’t mean that they are cheating anyone.
They are giving away perfectly good vaccines that cost them money. Is there harm in letting them gain some publicity to cover those losses?
Fact #6 : SKYCellflu Quadrivalent Vaccines Are Not Made From Dog Cells
The SKYCellflu Quadrivalent influenza vaccine is not made from dog cells. Rather, the influenza viruses are GROWN in MDCK (Madin-Darby Canine Kidney) cells.
After they are grown, the viruses are then harvested and purified before being inactivated. No dog cells of any kind are present in the vaccine.
Using MDCK cells provides these advantages over using fertilised chicken eggs :
- faster vaccine manufacturing
- no egg allergy risk
- no egg-adapted changes, allowing for better immune response by the body
Whether such a vaccine is acceptable for religious or moral reasons, we will leave it to every individual to decide.
Fact #6 : Thomson Hospital Staff + Doctors Received Them Too
Dr. Mohamed Al-Hadi also pointed out that Thomson Hospital gave their staff and doctors first priority, administering their flu vaccines on the very first day.
Do you think they would risk the health of their staff and doctors if they did not believe the flu vaccine was safe and effective?
COVID-19 : Please Keep Safe!
If you ask us, what we are more concerned about is the long queue. If you are planning to take up this free influenza vaccine offer, please make sure you :
- wear a face mask and make sure you put it on and remove it properly!
- maintain a social distance of 6 feet (2 metres)
- keep your hands clean with soap or hand sanitiser
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