The COVID-19 vaccine and allergies: What you need to know.

Published on December 22, 2020

Eight people have reportedly experienced a severe life-threatening allergic response after getting the first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Over 500,000 U.S citizens have received the first dose of the vaccine. Although the Pfizer vaccine went though clinical trials and was granted emergency use authorization by the F.D.A, several individuals who got the vaccine experienced an anaphylactic response. Here is what you need to know about the vaccine and allergies, particularly if you have a history of allergic reactions.

What is Anaphylaxis?

Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic response that can be life-threatening. Symptoms include swelling, hives, difficulty breathing, a tingling sensation in the tongue, dizziness, cramps and shock. Initially it can sometimes feel like experiencing a sudden onset of bad seasonal allergies, with itchy eyes and ears, and then the symptoms can get quickly and progressively worse without immediate medical treatment. The only way to treat the dangerous symptoms of anaphylaxis is with epinephrine. Some officials have suggested that anyone with a history of allergies should take a Benadryl thirty minutes before getting vaccinated as a precautionary measure.

However, it is vital to note that Benadryl does not successfully stop a case of anaphylaxis on its own. The most important thing is to have a doctor monitor a patient at least thirty minutes after a dose is administered to ensure they don’t have an adverse reaction and to have epinephrine ready to go if an allergic response occurs.

Anaphylaxis is your body’s immune system not recognizing something introduced into your body as safe and attacking it, resulting in the aforementioned dangerous symptoms.

What is PEG?

Some scientists suspect that PEG is the root cause of the vaccine’s allergic response in some patients. Polyethylene glycol, or PEG is a compound that is found in both the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and the Moderna vaccine. Although PEG can be found in other drugs the ingredient has never been used in vaccines until now. PEG has not been confirmed to be causing the reactions, but the U.S will be conducting an investigation into the adverse allergic reactions to the Pfizer vaccine.

CDC Guidelines

The CDC has issued a list of guidelines to help those concerned about potential allergic reactions to the vaccine. Individuals who have experienced an adverse reaction to other vaccines can still get the COVID-19 vaccine, but should be monitored by a doctor for at least 30 minutes after getting the first dose.

If someone experiences an anaphylactic reaction to the first dose of the vaccine, doctors say they should not get the second dose. Two healthcare workers who got the vaccine in Alaska started experiencing symptoms of an anaphylactic response ten minutes after getting the first dose. Another recommendation is that individuals who have previously experienced a severe allergic reaction to ingredients in the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines should not get the shot at all.

Here are the ingredients in the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine:

mRNA, lipids ((4-hydroxybutyl)azanediyl)bis(hexane-6,1-diyl)bis(2-hexyldecanoate), 2 [(polyethylene glycol)-2000]-N,N-ditetradecylacetamide, 1,2-Distearoyl-sn-glycero-3- phosphocholine, and cholesterol), potassium chloride, monobasic potassium phosphate, sodium chloride, dibasic sodium phosphate dihydrate, and sucrose

Here are the ingredients in the Moderna vaccine:

messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA), lipids (SM-102, polyethylene glycol [PEG] 2000 dimyristoyl glycerol [DMG], cholesterol, and 1,2-distearoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine [DSPC]), tromethamine, tromethamine hydrochloride, acetic acid, sodium acetate, and sucrose.

Communication with your doctor is key. An anaphylactic response to anything can be life-threatening, so proper treatment before and after the shot is administered is crucial and must be taken seriously. There are currently no reports of allergic reactions to the Moderna vaccine although it has just started its initial rollout. Hopefully the U.S study on the allergic response to the Pfizer vaccine will yield good results so more people feel comfortable getting vaccinated.

Katherine Stinson is an award-winning journalist and Staff Reporter at Grit Daily News, where she covers Texas and Southern states' startup and entrepreneurship news. Based in San Antonio, Texas, she also contributes to ScreenRant, Outlander TV News, and San Antonio Magazine.

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