Dr. Orange, an allergist-immunologist, says the rare reactions should not deter the general public, including those with allergies, from getting the coronavirus vaccination.
“This is really a wonderful moment for us all, as this presents the ability to save so many lives, for us to truly flatten the curve to protect our patients, to protect ourselves, and protect our families,” says Dr. Orange.
Here, Dr. Orange tells Health Matters what people should know about the COVID-19 vaccines and allergies.
Can someone who has other kinds of severe allergies, such as an allergy to nuts or animals or to a plant, get the vaccine?
Many individuals who have had a history of life-threatening reactions to peanuts, tree nuts, specific foods, or bee stings have safely received this vaccine. Those kinds of allergies are not a risk factor for allergic reactivity to the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines. People with these common allergies can safely get vaccinated. Many have already.
What if you have a family history of a severe allergic reaction?
A family history of an allergic reaction, even if it’s a family history of an allergic reaction to a vaccine, does not create a risk for this vaccine. Those individuals can safely receive, and have received, the vaccines. Let’s keep in mind that thousands and thousands of people at this point have safely received the vaccines.
What is a severe reaction, when does it occur, and how is it treated?
A severe reaction, or anaphylaxis, is an immediate allergic reaction. For example, if someone is allergic to nuts and they ingest a nut, their face may swell, their throat may swell, and/or they may start vomiting. Anaphylaxis, when it occurs, is treated by an epinephrine (adrenaline) injection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says an example of an allergic reaction that’s severe is when a person needs to be treated with epinephrine, such as EpiPen, or they must go to the hospital. We are not talking about common reactions to the vaccine such as soreness in the arm and fatigue. An allergic reaction typically occurs within 30 minutes after receiving the vaccine.
Who should not receive a COVID-19 vaccine?
The CDC says that people who have had a severe allergic reaction, specifically anaphylaxis, to an ingredient in a COVID-19 vaccine should not get that specific vaccine. Also, people who have a severe allergic reaction after the first COVID shot should not get the second shot.
What about people who have had severe allergic reactions to other vaccines in the past?
There is a cautionary group that should consult with their allergist before receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. These are people who have had a personal history of a severe allergic reaction, such as anaphylaxis, to another vaccine — not the COVID vaccine but to another vaccine. Or they have a history of a severe allergic reaction, such as anaphylaxis, to an injectable medicine, as some of the liquid components of injectable medicines may have similarities to what is in a vaccine. So, people who fall into either of those categories should consult with their allergist beforehand.