"You Should Not" Take COVID Vaccine If You Have This Problem, Warns Dr. Fauci
Clinical trials of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine have found that it is generally safe, but one group of people should consider not getting it, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious-disease expert, on Wednesday. "What the Pfizer people are saying is that if you have a history of a severe allergic reaction, you should either not take this vaccine, or if you do take it, take it in the context of a place where if you do develop an allergic reaction, it could be readily and effectively treated," said Fauci in a CNBC Healthy Returns Livestream. Read on to hear more, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.
If you've experienced anaphylaxis before, use caution
In clinical trials, the vaccine was tested on 44,000 people and found to be safe and 95 percent effective. It has been authorized for emergency use and is rolling out to healthcare workers across the country. Pfizer had previously warned that people who've experienced severe allergic reactions, like anaphylaxis—a swelling of the throat that impairs breathing and can be fatal if not treated—may want to avoid it.
On Wednesday, the New York Times reported that a middle-aged healthcare worker had experienced a severe allergic reaction upon getting the vaccine. That person had no history of allergies. It's the only allergic reaction reported in the U.S. since vaccinations began on Monday. The worker was briefly hospitalized after experiencing anaphylaxis but recovered and was due to be discharged Wednesday night.
"I don't think this means we should pause" vaccinations, Dr. Paul A. Offit, a vaccine expert and member of an outside panel that advised the FDA on the Pfizer vaccine, told the Times. "Not at all." But he said researchers need to figure out "what component of the vaccine is causing this reaction."
Allergy experts issue recommendations, reassurance
In guidance released on Monday, the American College of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology said data on the Pfizer vaccine's effect on people who've had previous severe reactions was "limited and evolving." The ACAAI also pointed out that allergic reactions to vaccines are generally rare, with anaphylaxis only occurring 1.31 times per 1 million doses administered.
"Individuals with common allergies to medications, foods, inhalants, insects, and latex are no more likely than the general public to have an allergic reaction to the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine," said the ACAAI. "The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine should be administered in a health care setting where anaphylaxis can be treated. All individuals must be observed for at least 20-30 minutes after injection to monitor for any adverse reaction."
The ACAAI also said that people with a severe allergy to polyethylene glycol should not take the vaccine, as it's a component of the vaccine known to cause anaphylaxis.
But for others, if you're in doubt, talk to your doctor. "A decision to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine should be undertaken by you with your physician or other provider administering the vaccine using their professional judgment balancing the benefits and risks associated with taking the vaccine," said the ACAAI.
How to survive this pandemic
As for yourself, do everything you can to prevent getting—and spreading—COVID-19 in the first place: Wear a face mask, get tested if you think you have coronavirus, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), practice social distancing, only run essential errands, wash your hands regularly, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.