Explained: What is known about allergic reactions to Covid-19 vaccines

Concerns have been raised over reports that some people have possible allergic reactions to Covid-19 vaccines. A team of experts has now examined the relevant information.

In the US, where the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted emergency use approvals to the Covid-19 vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, concerns have been raised over reports that some people have possible allergic reactions to Covid-19 vaccines. A team of experts has now examined the relevant information and offered reassurance that the vaccines can be given safely, even to people with food or medication allergies. The review is published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice.

The review notes that allergic reactions to vaccines in general are rare, with a rate of about 1.3 per 1 million people.

The authors summarise what is currently known about allergic reactions to vaccines like the ones developed against Covid-19, and propose detailed advice so that individuals with different allergy histories can safely receive their first Covid-19 vaccine. They also outline steps on safely receiving the second dose in individuals who develop a reaction to their first dose.

“As allergists, we want to encourage vaccination by reassuring the public that both FDA-approved Covid-19 vaccines are safe. Our guidelines are built upon the recommendations of US regulatory agencies and provide clear steps to the medical community on how to safely administer both doses of the vaccine in individuals with allergic histories,” review author Aleena Banerji from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Harvard Medical School said in a statement released by MGH.

The experts stress that Covid-19 vaccine clinics will be monitoring all patients for 15 to 30 minutes and can manage any allergic reactions that occur. Banerji and her co-authors recommend that individuals with a history of anaphylaxis to an injectable drug or vaccine containing the compounds polyethylene glycol or polysorbate speak with their allergists before being vaccinated. They stress that patients with severe allergies to foods, oral drugs, latex, or venom can safely receive the Covid-19 vaccines.

The review notes that in the UK, following accounts of potential allergic reactions in some people following vaccination, the medical authorities advised that individuals with a history of anaphylaxis to a medicine or food should avoid Coid-19 vaccination.

In the US, after a review of the data related to allergic reactions, the FDA recommended that the vaccines be withheld only from individuals with a history of severe allergic reactions to any component of the Covid-19 vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advised that all patients be observed for 15 minutes post-vaccination by staff who can identify and manage such reactions. The US agencies do not recommend that people with food or medication allergies avoid vaccination.

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This article first appeared in the print edition on January 5, 2020 under the title ‘Amid concerns over allergic reactions to vaccines, US experts offer reassurance’. Source: Massachusetts General Hospital

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