Important note: This article is intended for those who understand vaccines as critical to maintaining their health and that of their families. It is NOT intended for those who are anti-vaccine and as such is NOT intended to foster a discussion on the merits of vaccines in this forum. It is also NOT intended to foster a discussion of the lethality of COVID-19 or the need for civic action to limit the spread of the disease.
During a conference call Sunday, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued guidance stating that individuals with a history of allergic reactions can get the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Those with a prior history of reactions to vaccines or injectable drugs are urged to be monitored for 30 minutes afterward.
The CDC guidance differs from guidance issued by the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) after two healthcare workers experienced anaphylactoid reactions upon receiving the vaccine. The MHRA issued the guidance in an abundance of caution despite data from clinical trials with over 44,000 participants indicating the vaccine was generally well tolerated with no serious safety concerns as reported by the independent Data Monitoring Committee.
“People that do report those types of anaphylactic reactions to other vaccines or injectables — they can still get the vaccine, but they should be counseled about the unknown risks of developing a severe allergic reaction and balance these risks against the benefit of vaccination,” said Dr Sarah Mbaeyi, a medical officer with the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.
Mbaey said that those that experienced prior reactions to vaccines and injectable drugs should consult their doctors to help them assess whether the reaction was truly caused by the drug.
She went on to say that others with allergies to food, latex, pollen or other substances do not have to take special precautions and are recommended to receive the Pfizer vaccine.
Dr Amanda Cohn with the CDC’s Covid-19 vaccine planning unit described the vaccine as consisting of messenger RNA and four lipid nanoparticles with no preservatives or other ingredients in the vaccine.
She indicated that people could be allergic to a part of the lipid nanoparticle known as polyethylene glycol (PEG) which is also a component in other injectable medicines. “That is partially the reason for the extra precautions for persons who have (had reactions) to other injectables, Cohn said. “We are being abundantly cautious about this question related to allergic reactions. We don’t want people who have mild allergic reactions to be concerned about getting vaccinated.”
The CDC and Food and Drug Administration will monitor all allergic reactions resulting from administration of the vaccine closely and revise their guidance if necessary.
Said Cohn: “We will learn a lot more as we follow the use of this vaccine very carefully. We know that these vaccines have the potential to end this pandemic and we know that it is critical for health care providers to have confidence that these vaccines are very safe.”