What you need to know about allergies and the COVID-19 vaccine

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 7, 2021

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Why everyday allergies are no cause for concern with the coronavirus vaccine

By Page Leggett
Novant Health

We’ve all been hearing about the importance — the urgency, really — of getting the COVID-19 vaccine when it’s our turn. But there are some exceptions.

There have been a few reports of people having serious (anaphylactic) reactions in the “real world” — that is, outside the carefully controlled environment of clinical trials. Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that can cause you to go into shock and requires an injection of epinephrine and immediate attention.

Scientists are looking into each case. According to BBC News, the people in Great Britain who had severe reactions had a history of severe allergic reactions to vaccines.

The U.S. government is monitoring vaccine distribution and health care systems administering the vaccines are required to report any unusual reactions. “Any adverse events that occur in a recipient following COVID-19 vaccination, including anaphylaxis, should be reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) at https://vaers.hhs.gov/,” according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance.

How do you know if you’re among those who shouldn’t get the vaccine or those who should take extra precautions before getting the vaccine? Let’s break it down:

Don’t get the vaccine (yet): if you’ve had a severe allergic reaction to any ingredient in whichever vaccine you receive. (See the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) fact sheet for a list of ingredients on the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for more information.)

Consult with a health care provider (a physician, nurse practitioner, physician assistant) before getting the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine: if you’ve ever had an allergic reaction to any injectable vaccine.

Plan to get the vaccine, but first tell your vaccine provider: if you have any allergies or have a history of anaphylaxis due to any cause.

If you have a history — even one instance — of anaphylaxis, you should be observed in a clinical setting for 30 minutes post-injection. Learn more at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website.

Note: People with allergies to dust, pollen, certain foods, latex, etc. — can feel safe about getting the vaccine, according to the CDC.

The FDA advises: Tell the vaccination provider about all your medical conditions, including if you:

  • have any allergies.
  • have a fever.
  • have a bleeding disorder or are on a blood thinner.
  • are immunocompromised or are on a medicine that affects your immune system.
  • are pregnant or plan to become pregnant.
  • are breastfeeding.
  • have received another COVID-19 vaccine.
  • have received any other vaccine in the past two weeks.

Each person who gets vaccinated should be observed for 15 minutes post-injection.

Some expected effects from the vaccine are common and no cause for alarm. Pain at the injection site, muscle aches, fever and chills are all possible reactions to vaccines. They generally last for a day or two at most. They’re also a sign the vaccine is working.

But any severe symptoms — difficulty breathing, rapid heartbeat, dizziness, swelling of face or throat — should be addressed at once. Call 911 if you experience any of those after getting the COVID-19, or any, vaccine.

Getting vaccinated is an important step in protecting yourself and your community from COVID-19. But, if you have a history of adverse reactions to vaccines, don’t take that step without consulting with a health care provider or your vaccine provider.