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CDC Issues New Guidance On Allergic Reactions To Pfizer’s COVID-19 Vaccine

"Your doctor will help you decide if it is safe for you to get vaccinated"
Medical syringe is seen with Pfizer company logo displayed on a screen in the background in this illustration photo taken in Poland on June 16, 2020.
Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued new guidance after reports of severe allergic reactions to Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.

“CDC has learned of reports that some people have experienced severe allergic reactions — also known as anaphylaxis — after getting a COVID-19 vaccine,” the agency wrote on its website on Saturday. “As an example, 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.”

“If you have ever had a severe allergic reaction to any ingredient in a COVID-19 vaccine, CDC recommends that you should not get that specific vaccine. If you have had a severe allergic reaction to other vaccines or injectable therapies, you should ask your doctor if you should get a COVID-19 vaccine. Your doctor will help you decide if it is safe for you to get vaccinated,” the CDC wrote.

“CDC recommends that people with a history of severe allergic reactions not related to vaccines or injectable medications — such as allergies to food, pet, venom, environmental, or latex — may still get vaccinated. People with a history of allergies to oral medications or a family history of severe allergic reactions, or who might have a milder allergy to vaccines (no anaphylaxis)—may also still get vaccinated.”

The agency also said if people have “a severe allergic reaction after getting the first shot, you should not get the second shot. Your doctor may refer you to a specialist in allergies and immunology to provide more care or advice.”

The guidance came out after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said it was looking into reports that there have been five severe reactions to Pfizer’s vaccine.

The CDC also said there are safeguards in place and recommended COVID-19 vaccination providers prepare for the possibility of severe allergic reactions.

“All people who get a COVID-19 vaccine should be monitored on-site. People with a history of severe allergic reactions should be monitored for 30 minutes after getting the vaccine. All other people should be monitored for 15 minutes after getting the vaccine,” said the CDC. “Vaccination providers should have appropriate medications and equipment—such as epinephrine, antihistamines, stethoscopes, blood pressure cuffs, and timing devices to check your pulse—at all COVID-19 vaccination sites.”

“If you experience a severe allergic reaction after getting a COVID-19 vaccine, vaccination providers should provide rapid care and call for emergency medical services. You should continue to be monitored in a medical facility for at least several hours,” said the agency.

Pfizer’s vaccine, the first in the U.S., was approved by the FDA for emergency use authorization (EUA) on Dec. 11. That vaccine is already being distributed and put into use. The FDA last week also approved Moderna’s EUA request. Moderna said its data showed their vaccine was 95% effective in its late-stage clinical trial, the same as Pfizer’s. The Moderna vaccine was developed in conjunction with the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed.

A key advantage of Moderna’s vaccine is that it does not need sub-zero storage like Pfizer’s, which needs to be stored at -94 degrees. The first shipments of Moderna’s vaccine began leaving warehouses early Sunday.

A third vaccine is also in the pipeline. AstraZeneca and Oxford University on Nov. 23 said their jointly created COVID-19 vaccine has proven to be up to 90% effective and the maker claims it will be easier to distribute.

Related: FDA Confirms Pfizer Vaccine Safe, Effective

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