As Vaccines to protect against COVID-19 continue to roll out in the US. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has documented a small number of reports of severe allergic reactions from some recipients. A CDC report published Wednesday (January 6) in the agency Weekly report on morbidity and mortalitynotes that most of these rare events occurred in people with a history of allergic reactions.
As of December 23, nearly 1.9 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine had been administered nationwide, according to the report. This was followed by 21 recorded cases of anaphylaxis, a rate of 11.1 per million doses. Four of the people had no medical history of severe allergic reactions. Seven of them had had anaphylaxis in the past. Epinephrine, the drug used in Epi-Pens, was given to 19 of the patients and four were hospitalized. Follow-up information was available for 20 patients, all of whom have now been discharged from hospital or have recovered from their reaction.
“The good news is how rare these allergic reactions are and how easily identifiable and treatable they are,” says Paul Offit, who serves on an external vaccine advisory board for the US Food and Drug Administration The Washington Post. “Yes, the risk is extremely small, but not a single person has died from the allergic reaction while many people have died from the virus.”
Anyone receiving the vaccine is advised to stay 15 minutes to monitor any harmful side effects. It is recommended that people with a history of allergic reactions wait half an hour. The report found that the median time to symptoms was 13 minutes. Only one person walked over an hour before the reaction occurred, with a delay of 150 minutes. The CDC advises anyone who experiences anaphylaxis after the first dose to forego the second dose.
“People are more likely to get injured when they go to the clinic to get a shot than from the shot itself,” continues Offit, who co-developed the RotaTeq rotavirus vaccine.
The mean age of the patients was 40 years with a range of 27 to 60 years. Nineteen of the patients were women, and women also make up 61 percent of vaccine recipients, according to the report. There was no common thread among the allergies already listed, which included tropical fruits, nuts, penicillin, and sulfa drugs, among others.
The report acknowledges several limitations of the study, including that the data came from reports submitted to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), which is often an incomplete source of information. Suspicion of anaphylaxis could also lead to an intensified response, since the vaccine is so new and has received extensive media coverage. There may also be a delay between when reports appear in VAERS and an accurate count of the doses given. After all, the Moderna vaccine was only available two days prior to data collection, so very few of these vaccines had been administered at the time of the report.
CDC officials say it is worth taking the risk of an allergic reaction to the vaccine, considering how deadly COVID-19 continues to be as the US tops 360,000 total deaths.
“Of course we would all hope that any vaccine would have no adverse events. But even at 11 cases per million doses administered, it’s a very safe vaccine, ”said Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the CDC, at a news conference on Wednesday STAT. “We have 2,000 Covid deaths a day. . . . I would say it’s still good value for someone to get vaccinated. “