Allergists’ Video: COVID-19 Vaccines and Reaction Risks

in Food Allergy
Published: February 2, 2021

Most people are eager to get a COVID-19 vaccination to gain protection against the deadly virus. Yet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is collecting data that show there have been some severe reactions to the COVID-19 vaccines.

The CDC characterizes these as “rare events, yet in the allergy community, questions about the mRNA-based vaccines and reaction risks have understandably arisen. 

In the first episode of Allergic Living’s Allergy Clinic, a new video series, Editor-Content Chief Gwen Smith puts key questions to 3 leading allergist-immunologists.

In this important conversation about the COVID-19 vaccines and allergy concerns, you will learn about:

• Who among those with allergies is at risk for a reaction to a COVID-19 vaccine? Who likely is not?
• How often does anaphylaxis to the vaccines occur?
• What is in the ingredients of these shots?
• Is polyethylene glycol the culprit behind these reactions – or what else might be?
• Not all reactions are likely allergy-based anaphylaxis. What else do the experts suspect?
• If you’re worried about a potential reaction to the COVID-19 shot, what precautions can you take?

The 3 allergists joining Gwen in this video conversation are:

  • Dr. Kimberly Blumenthal, Quality and Safety Officer for Allergy, Massachusetts General Hospital; drug allergy researcher. (Find her here on Twitter.)
  • Dr. James Baker, Director of the Mary H. Weiser Food Allergy Center at the University of Michigan; allergy researcher and vaccine expert. (His blog is here, and find him on Twitter.)
  • Dr. Brian Vickery, Director of the Food Allergy Center at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta; food allergy researcher. (Find him on Twitter.)

In late January, the CDC told Allergic Living reporter Jenifer Goodwin that the rate of suspected anaphylaxis cases was 6.2 cases for every 1 million people receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and 2.1 cases of anaphylaxis for every 1 million receiving the Moderna vaccine. Although the rates will vary, that tally of severe reactions to the Pfizer vaccine represents a decline from the CDC’s early January report of 11 cases per million.

We hope you find this video useful to your understanding of the vaccines, which are the essential tools in the effort to bring the pandemic under control. As this video series continues, write to us at [email protected] if there’s an allergy topic you’d like to see explored on Allergy Clinic video series.

Related Reading:
Allergic Living’s FAQ: Allergy Concerns and the mRNA Vaccines
Likely More Than 1 Cause for COVID-19 Vaccine Reactions