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Allergy Today: Have allergies and worried about the COVID-19 vaccine?

Have allergies and worried about the Covid-19 vaccine?

It is understandable some people with allergies may be concerned about whether the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine (Comirnaty) is safe for them or their family member(s).iStock-1285653618-227

However, the overwhelming evidence is that the vaccine is safe for everyone, whether or not they have allergies or other health conditions, and it is far, far safer than remaining unvaccinated and at risk of getting COVID-19. Our allergy/clinical immunology specialists and others advise:

The vaccine is safe for:

  • Pregnant women in any stage of pregnancy.
  • People with any medical condition or receiving any type of medical treatment. There are no medical conditions, past or current, or medicines that prevent a person receiving a COVID-19 vaccination. The vaccine is safe for people with compromised immune systems, however they may not have an immune response as strong as a healthy person and it is therefore important for those around them to also have the vaccine.
  • People with history of anaphylaxis as long as it was not caused by the vaccine or something in the vaccine. Vaccinators will discuss this in detail at time of vaccination.

See here for further information:

UPDATED: Assessing eligibility for COVID-19 vaccination at vaccine centres: Don’t delay | The Immunisation Advisory Centre (immune.org.nz)

How do we know it is safe?

Millions of doses have been administered globally. Countries distributing the vaccine have systems in place to report adverse reactions. We know from this that:

  • Adverse reactions including anaphylaxis are extremely rare;
  • There are side effects that some people experience, but they are mild and temporary, and show the immune system is responding normally to the vaccine.

In New Zealand, all vaccine centres are required to observe those who have been vaccinated for at least 15 minutes, know the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis, how to respond if it should occur, and have adrenaline on hand. There have been few reports of anaphylaxis.

  • If you are worried about the risk of anaphylaxis, you can ask to remain under observation for a longer period.

For more information, see How can we be confident getting vaccinated is safe? on Vimeo

Is there anyone who can’t have the vaccine?

The list of reasons why the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine may not be suitable is short:

Before the first dose:

  • History of severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to an ingredient of the vaccine. This is very rare, and only applies to previous anaphylaxis to a stabiliser in the vaccine called polyethylene glycol (PEG). Cases like this require expert assessment by an immunology specialist.

After problems with the first dose:

  • People who had a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) after the first dose – this typically occurs within 15 minutes of receiving it and is the main reason for waiting after vaccination. Even when suspected anaphylaxis has occurred after the first dose, increasing experience now shows that many people can be revaccinated safely in a specialist immunology clinic setting.
  • Those who had myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) or pericarditis (inflammation of the lining around the heart) after their first dose of this vaccine. Myocarditis or pericarditis after the vaccine is rare. Diagnosis requires special tests and often assessment by a heart specialist.

If you meet any of these criteria, contact your GP to discuss how to be safely vaccinated.

Ref: Who can't have the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine?

What is the long-term risk?

The known risks of COVID-19 illness and its related, possibly severe complications, such as long-term health problems, hospitalization, and even death, far outweigh the potential risks of having a rare adverse reaction to vaccination, including the possible risk of myocarditis.

Long COVID

A study from the University of Oxford and the UK National Institute for Health Research, found more than one in three people with COVID-19 would experience at least one symptom of long COVID up to six months after being infected.

The most common were breathing problems, abdominal symptoms, fatigue, pain and anxiety or depression.

Final piece of advice

Every day someone waits to decide whether or not to be vaccinated, they are at risk of serious – and possibly long-term - health problems from catching COVID-19. They are also a risk to others – the virus is highly infectious.

Please don’t delay – get vaccinated today.

Allergy Today, October 2021