Pfizer’s Covid Vaccine and Allergies: How Concerned Should You Be?


“If I were a person that had an underlying allergic tendency, I might want to be prepared that I might get a reaction, and therefore be ready to treat it,” Dr. Fauci said, in a webcast moderated by Dr. Sanjay Gupta of CNN, sponsored by Harvard and The New England Journal of Medicine.

Dr. Fauci acknowledged that the problem could turn out to affect a lot of people.

“That’s one of the reasons why it’s important to cover the waterfront with different vaccine platforms,” he said, adding, “If in fact we do find out that there is a consistent issue of a certain subset of people like those with allergic reactions, you’ll always have other vaccine platforms that you can use and hopefully you will not see that with those other platforms.”


Dr. Paul Offit, a vaccine expert at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said the initial, broad recommendation in Britain mentioning severe allergic reactions seemed to be an overreaction that could needlessly scare many people away from a desperately needed vaccine in the middle of a raging pandemic.

Millions of people in the United States are allergic to foods like eggs or peanuts, as well as medicines or bee stings, and have had reactions that were serious enough to lead doctors to advise them to carry epinephrine injectors. But that does not necessarily mean the vaccine is risky for them, he said. About five percent of children and four percent of adults in the United States have food allergies, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Fewer than one in a million recipients of other vaccines a year in the United States have an anaphylactic reaction, Dr. Offit said.

Those reactions are treatable, and much easier to control than a severe case of Covid-19, he said.

Many people with allergies to foods, bee stings or medicines have received multiple vaccines without problems.

As a member of the F.D.A. advisory panel that met on Thursday, Dr. Offit voted in favor of authorizing the Pfizer vaccine. But during the panel’s discussion of allergic reactions, he said, “this issue is not going to die until we have better data.”

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