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Allergies and Potential Reactions to COVID-19 mRNA Vaccines

A discussion about the possible side effects and allergic reactions to coronavirus vaccines.

With the recent announcements of various countries across the globe authorizing mRNA vaccines like Pfizer’s and Moderna’s for use against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), many people have questions regarding their safety. In particular, there are those with histories of allergies to food or certain medications who are fearful of taking the vaccines and having an adverse reaction.

In a discussion surrounding the overall safety and potential for allergic reactions in mRNA vaccines, Dr. Aleena Banerji, who is the clinical director of the Allergy and Clinical Immunology Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital, gave reassurance that the majority of people will have no issues.

“In what we know at this point is really what we can pull from the data. The trials did not exclude anyone with food allergies…we didn’t necessarily see a higher rate of food allergies in the study from people who had reactions,” she said.

Bangerji continued, “If you have a history of itching, or a history of hives to food or drug but it was not a severe allergic reaction…the guidance right now is to have routine vaccination…its really those who have a history of severe anaphylaxis who should talk to their allergist before getting the vaccine.”

On a recent paper which Dr. Banerji co-authored, her and her colleagues successfully created and used a 4-question screen to stratify risk and properly monitor and manage those who are at a higher risk for serious allergic reaction to the vaccine. The more questions that are answered yes, the higher the probability that that individual will have an allergic reaction to the vaccine.

In talking on how they developed the screen, Banerji said “We followed the FDA and CDC guidance that’s out there, as well as trying to put forward a very clear plan. What we were trying to identify were…the big categories…[and] trying to target those individuals that might want to talk to their allergist.”