What We Know About Allergic Reactions to COVID Vaccines

Last week, amid gleeful news segments in which first-level healthcare providers received their first dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, reports emerged that dampened the excitement: Some of the vaccine recipients experienced severe allergic reactions after the injection.

These stories are (understandably) unsettling, especially for those with allergies. But instead of panic, it is important to look at these incidents in a broader context. Here’s what you need to know about COVID and allergy vaccines, including updated safety guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Allergic reactions to Pfizer COVID vaccine

On Sunday afternoon, the CDC said 556,000 doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine had been administered in the United States. And as of Saturday, December 19, the CDC has identified six cases of anaphylaxis – a severe, potentially life- threatening allergic reaction – among those who received the first vaccine to receive an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the Food and Drug Administration and medicines (USA). FDA).

Until now, there have been no publicly reported cases of anaphylaxis among those who received the Moderna vaccine, although today is only the second day of its introduction.

And since we’re talking about it, anaphylaxis is not unique to the vaccine COVID-19 : these severe allergic reactions may occur with any vaccine. Fortunately, they are extremely rare and occur on average at one dose per million .

Have there been cases of anaphylaxis in clinical trials?

Before both Pfizer and Moderna received the EUA, each vaccine had to meet stringent safety requirements that also addressed potential allergic reactions. But none of the participants in any of the clinical trials have experienced anaphylaxis after vaccination, so scientists are wondering what is causing these serious reactions now.

Despite reports that clinical trials of the Pfizer vaccine ruled out anyone with a history of severe food or drug allergies , this was not entirely true. Reuters reports that the late trials of the vaccine involved about 6,000 participants with a history of a range of allergies, including to pollen and food. But people with a severe adverse reaction to any vaccine (or component of a Pfizer vaccine) have been excluded in the past .

New research on allergic reactions

Officials from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced yesterday that research has begun to determine if a particular component of the vaccine is causing these allergic reactions or if they were just coincidental. Not only is this information required to be obtained as quickly as possible, but the study itself is a major challenge given that it will involve people with a history of severe allergic reactions.

Scientists have identified one potential suspect: a compound called polyethylene glycol (PEG), which is contained in the messenger RNA (mRNA) packaging used in both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Although PEG has never been used in approved vaccines before, Science reports , it is found in several drugs known to sometimes cause anaphylaxis.

What People With Allergies Should Know About COVID Vaccines

While it is not yet clear what exactly causes cases of anaphylaxis in Pfizer vaccine recipients, the CDC has released a set of guidelines to help us make informed vaccine choices when our turn comes:

  1. Avoid a specific COVID-19 vaccine if you’ve ever had a severe allergic reaction to any of its ingredients (here are ingredient lists for Pfizer and Moderna ).
  2. Do not give a second dose of vaccine if you have a severe allergic reaction to the first vaccine.
  3. Ask your doctor if you should get the COVID-19 vaccine if you have had a severe allergic reaction to other vaccines or injectable treatments.
  4. People with a history of severe allergic reactions not related to vaccines or injectables, such as allergies to food, pets, poison or latex, or environmental allergies, may still be vaccinated.
  5. People with a history of oral allergy or a family history of severe allergic reactions, or who may have a milder allergy to vaccines (but no anaphylaxis), may also be vaccinated.

What happens if you have an allergic reaction after getting vaccinated

Any healthcare provider or professional administering COVID-19 vaccine has a set of instructions to follow if an allergic reaction occurs. But as a person receiving the vaccine, it is important that you are also familiar with the procedure – whether or not you have a history of allergies. Here are the recommended CDC protections :

  • All people who have received the COVID-19 vaccine must be monitored on the spot. People with a history of severe allergic reactions should be monitored for 30 minutes after vaccination. All other people should be monitored for 15 minutes after vaccination.
  • Vaccine providers must have appropriate medications and equipment such as epinephrine, antihistamines, stethoscopes, blood pressure cuffs, and timing devices to check your heart rate at all COVID-19 vaccination sites.
  • If you have a serious allergic reaction after being vaccinated against COVID-19, vaccination specialists should provide you with prompt assistance and call an ambulance. You should continue to be monitored in a medical facility for at least several hours.

However, the rule of observing everyone within 15 minutes after vaccination does not apply to COVID vaccines. This is a common procedure for influenza vaccines as well .

If you need more information on COVID-19 and allergy vaccines, Allergic Living has put together this helpful FAQ .


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *