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What is vaccine shedding?

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola Fact Checked

vaccine shedding

Story at-a-glance -

  • Live viral vaccines contain a weakened (or attenuated) version of the virus
  • Live attenuated viral vaccines can cause vaccinated persons to shed vaccine strain virus for a period of days, weeks or months, potentially infecting others and leading to symptoms of the very disease the vaccine was intended to prevent
  • One recent study revealed not only that influenza virus may be spread via simple breathing (i.e., no sneezing or coughing required) but also that repeated vaccination increases the amount of virus released into the air
  • Individuals who had gotten a flu vaccination in the current and previous season had 6.3 times more aerosol shedding of influenza virus than those who had received no vaccination in those two seasons
  • Due to a lack of active surveillance and testing, there’s no way to know how often vaccine-strain live virus shedding and disease transmission actually occurs

When you're infected with a virus that causes an illness, that virus is shed in your saliva and other bodily fluids, and sometimes also via skin lesions. This means that a person who comes into direct contact with the shed virus may also become infected. The same holds true for live attenuated viral vaccines.

While inactivated vaccines use a killed version of the pathogen, live viral vaccines use a weakened (or attenuated) version of the virus. Typically, the live virus used in vaccine production is passed through a living cell culture or other host, such as chicken embryo, many times over until it becomes weakened to a point that it's not likely to make you sick when it's injected or, in the case of live oral vaccines, swallowed.

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