People with Severe Allergies Told to Avoid Pfizer/BioNTech COVID Vaccine

While rare, allergic reactions to vaccines can happen – and people with a history of allergies would not have been recruited for the trials.

09 December 2020, 12:56pm

NHS England has confirmed that two staff members vaccinated yesterday with the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus shot suffered an allergic reaction. Now, medical experts are warning that people with severe allergies should avoid getting the jab.

The two people – both of whom share a history of allergic reactions – are said to be recovering well. But caution is still being advised.

Professor Stephen Powis, national medical director for the NHS in England, said in a statement: “As is common with new vaccines, the MHRA have advised on a precautionary basis that people with a significant history of allergic reactions do not receive this vaccination, after two people with a history of significant allergic reactions responded adversely yesterday.”


Such reactions were not seen in any of the 20,000 people who took part in the vaccine’s clinical trials, but researchers would not have enlisted those with a history of allergic reactions. While it is rare for vaccine recipients to experience an allergic reaction, it does occasionally happen; the CDC in America notes that severe reactions occur at a rate of approximately one per million doses. On Tuesday, several thousand people were vaccinated across the UK, with British grandmother Margaret Keenan becoming the first person in the world to receive the shot.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has issued new guidelines on whether you should take the vaccine if you suffer from allergies. The advice reads: “Any person with a history of a significant allergic reaction to a vaccine, medicine or food (such as previous history of anaphylactoid reaction or those who have been advised to carry an adrenaline autoinjector) should not receive the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.”

It continues: “Resuscitation facilities should be available at all times for all vaccinations. Vaccination should only be carried out in facilities where resuscitation measures are available.” All hospitals involved in the vaccination process have now been made aware of these guidelines.

Today, Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s scientific advisor, warned that we could still have to wear face masks and practise social distancing in the UK for up to a year from now. He said: “"It may be that next winter, even with vaccination, we need measures like masks in place. We don't know yet how good all the vaccines are going to be at preventing the transmission of the virus.”

That might not sound very promising, but the good news is that, asked when we can expect to return to normal, Vallance also said, “I would expect sort of springtime, April, something like that, you start to see more return towards normality, and thereafter it’s going to take a while before we're back to full normality.”


NHS, Lockdown, vaccines

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