Have food allergy? Pfizer, Moderna Covid jabs safe, say experts

A team of experts led by allergists at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in the US has assured that people with food or medication allergies can be vaccinated safely with Covid-19 jabs produced by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

The study, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice, comes at a time when reports of possible allergic reactions to the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna Covid- 19 vaccines have raised public concern.

Both the vaccines were recently approved for emergency use by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

In response to accounts of potential allergic reactions in some people following Covid-19 vaccination in the UK, that country’s medical regulatory agency advised that individuals with a history of anaphylaxis to a medicine or food should avoid Covid-19 vaccination. The UK also approved the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine.

After closer review of the data related to allergic reactions, however, the US FDA recommended that the vaccines be withheld only from individuals with a history of severe allergic reactions to any component of the Covid-19 vaccine. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advised that all patients be observed for 15 minutes post-vaccination by staff who can identify and manage such reactions.

The US agencies do not recommend that people with food or medication allergies avoid vaccination.

To provide insights from allergists’ perspectives, the experts have summarised what is currently known about allergic reactions to vaccines like those developed against Covid-19. They have proposed detailed advice so that individuals with different allergy histories can safely receive their first Covid-19 vaccine.

They also outlined steps on safely receiving the second dose in individuals who develop a reaction to their first dose of Covid-19 vaccine.

“As allergists, we want to encourage vaccination by reassuring the public that both FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccines are safe,” said study co-author Aleena Banerji, Clinical Director of the Allergy and Clinical Immunology Unit at MGH and Associate Professor at Harvard Medical School.

“Our guidelines are built upon the recommendations of U.S. regulatory agencies and provide clear steps to the medical community on how to safely administer both doses of the vaccine in individuals with allergic histories.”

The experts noted that allergic reactions to vaccines are rare, with a rate of about 1.3 per 1 million people.

They also determined that the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna Covid-19 vaccine allergic reactions will have a similarly low rate of occurrence.

Banerji and her co-authors recommended that individuals with a history of anaphylaxis to an injectable drug or vaccine containing polyethylene glycol or polysorbate speak with their allergists before being vaccinated.