These Are the Only People Who Shouldn't Get 2 Doses of the COVID Vaccine
These people need to exercise caution, the CDC warns.
As the COVID-19 vaccine rolls out across America, many are not-so-patiently waiting for their turn to get inoculated. But certain people have been told to exercise caution with the vaccine. Earlier this month, after two National Health Service (NHS) workers in the U.K. had an allergic reaction to the Pfizer vaccine, NHS medical director Stephen Powis released a statement saying that "people with a significant history of allergic reactions [should] not receive this vaccination." A few days later, once a couple more reactions were reported, the Centers for Disease Control And Prevention's (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) suggested that patients with a history of allergic reactions be monitored for 15 to 30 minutes after getting the vaccine. And now, there's another warning for those with allergies from the CDC: "If you have a severe allergic reaction after getting the first shot, you should not get the second shot," the CDC advises in new guidelines posted on Dec. 19. Read on to learn more, and for insight into when you might be able to get vaccinated, check out If You Did This in 2020, You Can Get Your COVID Vaccine Sooner.
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What qualifies as a severe reaction?
The CDC's guidelines note that "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." And for more vaccine warnings, check out Will the New COVID Strain Make the Vaccine Useless? Experts Weigh In.
What if you have a history of allergic reactions generally?
The CDC explains that those known to have adverse reactions to foods, pets, latex, or environmental conditions could still get vaccinated as normal. Those with allergies to oral medication or who have a wider family history of allergic reactions are also in the clear.
However, anyone with a known history of severe allergic reactions to vaccines should speak to their doctor before going ahead with the COVID-19 shot. And for more on signs you might have had the virus, check out These 2 Strange Symptoms Could Mean You've Already Had COVID.
What has happened to those who had severe reactions to the vaccine?
The CDC's update follows reports of five allergic reactions among patients who had had been administered the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in the U.S. These incidents are currently being investigated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Reuters reports, but those affected by these adverse reactions have recovered. And for more up-to-date news on COVID delivered right to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
What causes this kind of reaction?
It's currently unclear, but Science magazine reports that the allergic response "may be due to a compound in the packaging of the messenger RNA (mRNA) that forms the vaccine's main ingredient." The Moderna vaccine also contains the compound, polyethylene glycol (PEG).
While PEG has not been used previously in vaccines, it is commonly found in drugs that have occasionally caused anaphylaxis (it is also regularly used in everyday products such as toothpaste and shampoo). However, at this point, this is just a theory: "Until we know there is truly a PEG story, we need to be very careful in talking about that as a done deal," Alkis Togias, MD, branch chief of Allergy, Asthma and Airway Biology at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), told Science. And for more on the latest vaccine news, check out If You're Allergic to This, You Should Wait to Get the COVID Vaccine.