What To Know About Allergic Reactions To The COVID-19 Vaccine

The arrival of coronavirus vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna has provided a much-needed dose of optimism amid an otherwise debilitating pandemic. However, many people have questions after reports of some cases of allergic reactions to the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine, which received emergency clearance from the US Food and Drug Administration earlier this month.
Some people who were given the vaccine reportedly had anaphylaxis or a less severe allergic reaction that was not seen in the vaccine trials.
The FDA is investigating the cases of allergic reactions, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stated that anyone who has had a severe reaction (which is defined as needing the drug epinephrine or being treated in a hospital) will do the second dose of should not receive vaccine.
Does that mean we are very concerned? Here is everything you need to know now about the vaccine and possible allergic reactions:
The percentage of people who actually had an allergic reaction to the Pfizer vaccine is low.
The FDA is investigating about five cases of allergic reactions in people who received the first dose of Pfizer's COVID vaccine. The cases occurred in several parts of the country.
That concerns yes. However, if you compare the number of these cases to the total number of people vaccinated so far - around 128,000 or even more if you count the people who took part in the studies - the percentage of people who experience this problem is pretty small .
"With large numbers of people being vaccinated, reports of allergic reactions are very rare and can be easily resolved," Daniel Griffin, chief infectious disease for ProHEALTH Care and national process expert on Optum vaccine delivery, told HuffPost.
Most people, including those with specific allergies, shouldn't be too stressed about the vaccine right now, Griffin said.
"Only people with a severe reaction to previous vaccination should be affected. We recommend discussing this with a doctor before vaccination," he said. "People with other allergies like food, pollen, or even antibiotics don't need to worry."
It's not clear if Moderna's vaccine will cause the same problem.
Kavita Patel, a medical officer at HuffPost and a practicing internal medicine doctor in Washington, D.C., said in a recent HuffPost Q&A that Moderna's data from vaccine studies submitted to the FDA did not reveal any serious allergic reactions.
However, this is not a guarantee that no one will see a reaction after receiving the Moderna vaccine - which also only received emergency clearance from the FDA - rather than the Pfizer vaccine. Peter Marks, director of the FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, told a news conference recently that a chemical used in both vaccines called polyethylene glycol could be causing the reactions, Reuters reported.
Griffin said experts will know more once more people are vaccinated. Effective immediately, the FDA advises against giving the Moderna vaccine to anyone with a known history of severe allergic reactions to components of the immunization.
Most vaccines cause allergic reactions in some people.
Allergic reactions like these are not only seen with COVID-19 vaccines. Overall, this news shouldn't create any extreme hesitation or alarm about vaccines among the general public.
"Most vaccines cause allergic reactions in some people, so the COVID vaccines are nothing new," Griffin said. "These reactions appear to be rare and may be even rarer with COVID vaccines than with other vaccines."
If you've had a history of allergic reaction to any vaccine, talk to your doctor before getting a COVID vaccine.
We still have a long way to go before a COVID-19 vaccine is available to most people. Hence this won't even really be a problem for some time. When it is your turn to speak to your doctor about your specific case, including your known allergies and a history of vaccination reactions.
"If you've had a serious reaction to previous vaccines, you may not be able to get the vaccine, or at least you need to discuss the reaction with your provider and see if it still makes sense to receive it," said Patel.
Griffin said that some patients with a history of vaccination reactions "might be recommended to take an antihistamine such as Benadryl 30 minutes before vaccination". Your doctor may monitor you for an additional 30 minutes after receiving your dose to make sure you are well.
And remember, in the meantime, there are other ways you can protect yourself from COVID-19: wear a mask, wash your hands, and keep your distance from people who are not in your household. We will likely have to continue these measures for some time anyway, even with an available vaccine.
Experts are still learning about COVID-19. The information in this story is known or available at the time of publication. However, guidelines may change as scientists learn more about the virus. Consult the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the most current recommendations.
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This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.

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