Ask Dr. Nandi: U.K. regulator says people with severe allergies should not receive Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine

Posted at 5:29 PM, Dec 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-09 17:29:21-05

(WXYZ) — An allergy warning from the United Kingdom - two healthcare workers experienced adverse reactions after getting the first dose of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine. And while the warning sounds alarming, don’t let this scare you.

I think it’s very important that we talk about this so that folks understand what happened.

Now, Britain became the first country yesterday to kick off mass vaccination of Pfizer’s vaccine. Health workers and people over the age of 80 are one of the first groups to get the shots.

Here’s what we know, two medical staff had allergic reactions. We don’t know what symptoms they experienced because that info has not been shared. But we do know that both of these people had a history of anaphylactoid reactions that were significant, and they happened way before they got Pfizer’s first dose.

Now anaphylactoid reactions can be serious and life-threatening. But these two health workers already carried adrenaline autoinjectors, which are first-aid treatments for those with serious allergies. And the good news is that they are both have recovered.

I understand how that can sound scary. But let me put this in perspective for you….here in the United States, there is roughly one severe allergic reaction for every 1.4 million doses of vaccines. So the odds of having a reaction overall is small.

Having said that, this is a new vaccine. And while 42,000 people participated in the clinical trials, people who had a history of severe adverse allergic reactions were not included.

So I agree with Britain’s health authorities that people who have a history of allergic reactions – whether that’s to a vaccine, medicine, or food – should wait on getting Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine. Unless of course, the FDA tells us otherwise.

Besides the United Kingdom, two other countries have also approved Pfizer’s vaccine, Bahrain and Canada. So I expect that the FDA will grant emergency use authorization. Especially since they recently released documents saying that the vaccine was highly effective and that there were no serious safety concerns.

Now about the meeting tomorrow, the advisory panel which is made up of independent medical experts will all be there. And they’ll discuss the risks and benefits of Pfizer’s vaccine candidate. After that, they’ll vote. And the vote just says whether the advisory panel thinks the FDA should or should not authorize the vaccine. But this does not mean that the FDA has to accept the recommendation.

The FDA’s document did mention side effects. Interestingly, people 55 and younger were more likely to experience them.

The most common side effects noted were pain, redness, or swelling where the shot was given. Which is quite common. After that, headaches, muscle pain, and short-term fatigue was noted. Those usually followed the second shot. With fatigue occurring 59% and headache occurring 52% in participants aged 55 and younger.

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