If You Have This Vaccine Reaction, the CDC Says Try Johnson & Johnson

The agency is making new clinical considerations now that a third COVID vaccine is available.

When it comes to getting the coronavirus vaccine, health officials recommend that you don't interchange vaccines, since they can't yet be sure how effective and safe mixing two different vaccines would be. That means you shouldn't go to your second vaccine appointment and try to request Pfizer when you got the Moderna vaccine for your first dose. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has allowed for some flexibility in certain cases. If you have one particular vaccine reaction to the first dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines, the CDC now says you can try Johnson & Johnson as your second dose. Read on to find out why you might need to switch vaccines, and for more vaccine guidance, If You Take This Common Medication, Talk to a Doctor Before Your Vaccine.

If you had an allergic reaction to the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines, you can try the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

A health worker prepares to administer a shot of the American vaccine Johnson and Johnson. Name is blurry and vials containing mRNA technology vaccine
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If you have an allergic reaction to the first dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines, then vaccination providers can use the Johnson & Johnson (or Janssen) vaccine as a substitute for your second dose, according to Jessica MacNeil, MPH, an epidemiologist at the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

"In exceptional situations where the first dose of an mRNA Covid-19 vaccine was received, but the patient is unable to complete the series with either the same or a different mRNA Covid-19 vaccine, for example due to a contraindication, a single dose of Janssen's Covid-19 vaccine may be administered at a minimum interval of 28 days from the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine dose," MacNeil said during a March 1 emergency meeting of the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, as reported by CNBC. She further added that this should only be done "under the supervision of a healthcare provider," as the safety and efficacy of getting one shot of Moderna or Pfizer and one of Johnson & Johnson has not yet been tested. And for more from the CDC on vaccine safety, The CDC Says Don't Do This Within 2 Weeks of Your COVID Vaccine.

You shouldn't get a second dose of Moderna or Pfizer if you have certain allergic reactions to the first.

Male nurse preparing vaccine using face mask
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This new practice could be useful for people who have an allergic reaction to the first dose of Moderna or Pfizer and cannot continue their vaccination process—meaning they are not "fully vaccinated" against COVID. Currently, the CDC says you "should not get the second dose" of either Moderna's or Pfizer's vaccines if you experienced a severe or immediate allergic reaction to the first dose. According to the CDC, an allergic reaction is "considered severe when a person needs to be treated with epinephrine or EpiPen or if they must go to the hospital." An immediate allergic reaction happens within four hours of getting vaccinated, and does not necessarily have to be considered severe. And for more extreme vaccine reactions, If This Happens After Your Vaccine, the FDA Says You Should Call 911.

Severe allergic reactions are rare with the COVID vaccine.

Female doctor with a patient who is complaining of chest pain during coronavirus epidemic.
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While this guideline change may help some, the vast majority of people won't need to consider it. After all, the CDC says that severe allergic reactions, also known as anaphylaxis, can happen with any vaccination but are rare after the coronavirus vaccine. In fact, they report that only about two to five people per million vaccinated in the U.S. have experienced anaphylaxis after getting the COVID vaccine. "This kind of allergic reaction almost always occurs within 30 minutes after vaccination," the CDC says. "Fortunately, vaccination providers have medicines available to effectively and immediately treat patients who experience anaphylaxis following vaccination." And for more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.

The CDC says they are changing guidelines to include the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

A couple of Johnson and Johnson covid-19 vaccines with a syringe and medicine boxes on the background.
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The CDC keeps Americans up-to-date with best vaccine practices for Moderna and Pfizer through their clinical consideration guidelines. Since Johnson & Johnson's vaccine was just authorized recently, this vaccine is not yet included in these guidelines. According to a document released by the CDC on March 1, the agency's "clinical considerations are being updated" to include this new vaccine. Given how different this one-shot vaccine is from Moderna's and Pfizer's, there are likely to be a substantial number of new updates and recommendations from the CDC. And for more on this vaccine, These Are the Side Effects of the New Johnson & Johnson Vaccine, FDA Says.

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Kali Coleman
Kali is an assistant editor at Best Life. Read more
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