Thinking About Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine? CDC Weighs In

December 27, 2020
John Parkinson

With the public beginning to get vaccinated, CDC published information for people in some medical categories and considerations on severe allergic reactions.

As of yesterday morning, over 1.9 million Americans had received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

While this is promising news, considerations for weighing taking the vaccine is front and center for many people. For example, people with underlying medical conditions may have concerns about contracting a more severe case of COVID-19, but also remain uncertain on whether they should get the vaccine when eligible. In addition, with ongoing vaccinations, there have been a few reports of some severe allergic reactions to it.

As such, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published COVID-19 vaccine considerations for people in a few different medical categories.

“Adults of any age with certain underlying medical conditions are at increased risk for severe illness from the virus that causes COVID-19. mRNA COVID-19 vaccines may be administered to people with underlying medical conditions provided they have not had a severe allergic reaction to any of the ingredients in the vaccine,” the CDC posted on its site on December 26.

The federal agency covered a few different categories including those with weakened immune systems, autoimmune conditions, Guillain-Barre syndrome, and Bell’s palsy.

CDC said that for people with weakened immune systems, they may receive the vaccine, but they, “should also be aware of the potential for reduced immune responses to the vaccine.”

The agency included people with HIV (PWH) within this category at being at increased risk for severe COVID-19, and may receive the vaccine as well. CDC also said that while there were PWH included in the trials, there is a lack of safety data available yet on this patient population.

For people with autoimmune conditions, CDC offered a similar guidance with regards to being eligible for the vaccine and the lack of data on the safety of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines.

Both people who had Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS) and Bell’s palsy may receive the vaccine. CDC said no cases of GBS have been reported following mRNA COVID-19 vaccinations in clinical trials. However, there were cases of Bell’s palsy reported in clinical trial participants after taking the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine. Nonetheless, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), “does not consider these to be above the rate expected in the general population. They have not concluded these cases were caused by vaccination.” 

Considerations for Allergic Reactions

Within the last 2 weeks, the FDA gave Emergency Use Authorizations for 2 COVID-19 vaccines: Moderna’s mRNA-1273, and Pfizer and BioNtech’s BNT162b2.

Both vaccines are built upon the mRNA platform and are causing some concerns in light of a few reported severe allergic reactions.

For example, one physician at Boston Medical Center had a severe reaction on December 24 moments after receiving the Moderna vaccine. According to a report in the NY Times, Hossein Sadrzadeh, MD, had a reaction almost immediately after receiving the vaccination. He reported feeling dizzy and experiencing tachycardia.

He self-administered an epi-pen, which he had with him for an existing shellfish allergy, and was taken to the emergency department. After being examined and treated, he was discharged.

There has been speculation that a specific ingredient might be the culprit in these reactions, but it has not been confirmed.

For anyone wanting to learn more about severe allergic reactions, the CDC has published more information that can be found here.

After You Have the COVID-19 Vaccine

For those who have been vaccinated, the CDC wants people to continue to follow the existing guidelines, which include:

  • Wearing a mask
  • Staying at least six feet away from others
  • Avoiding crowds
  • Washing hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or using hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol
  • Following CDC travel guidance
  • Following quarantine guidance after exposure to COVID-19
  • Following any applicable workplace guidance