Today we will finish up the discussion about the COVID-19 vaccines. Britain has now approved the AstraZeneca vaccine, which was a collaborative effort between the University of Oxford and the AstraZeneca pharmaceutical company. This vaccine is cheaper and easy to store, and is the vaccine that much of the world will rely on to help end the pandemic. It is a different type of vaccine, using a genetically modified cold virus to produce an immune response to the COVID-19 virus. It is about 90% effective at preventing COVID-19 illness in the community. This new vaccine is certainly needed, with the more contagious variant of COVID-19 spreading rapidly and now confirmed to be present in the US. The US has now had more than 340,000 deaths due to COVID-19. Unfortunately, there will be many thousands more by the time this is over.
I know that we all have pandemic fatigue, and the vaccines make us feel like things are looking up. But this is no time to stop being vigilant about safety precautions. The vaccine roll-out is taking longer than anticipated, and this virus is not anywhere near finished with us, even though we may want to be finished with it. Please continue to try to do everything that you can to stop the spread of the virus.
Let’s continue our discussion about the vaccines. I know that some people have raised concerns about potential allergic reactions, particularly with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
What you need to know about allergic reactions
There have been a few people who have had an allergic reaction to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and one allergic reaction thus far to the Moderna Vaccine. There have been less than 10 allergic reactions reported out of well over 2.5 million doses of the vaccine given thus far. All the allergic reactions were treated effectively with no serious complications.
There is no evidence that people with mild allergies need to avoid the vaccine. Last week, the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology released guidance stating that people with common allergies “are no more likely than the general public to have an allergic reaction to the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.”
What about people with a history of severe allergies, like anaphylactic reactions to peanuts for instance? Allergy experts have said that most people in this category should also be safe to take the vaccines. Guidelines released by the CDC identify only one group of people who might not want to get the Pfizer vaccine: those with a known history of severe allergic reactions to an ingredient in the injection.
People with a history of anaphylaxis to any other substance, including other vaccines or injectable drugs, can still get the vaccine, but should consult with their health care providers first. Your health care provider will be able to tell you the ingredients in the COVID-19 vaccine to help determine your risk before making a decision about taking the vaccine. Anyone with a history of anaphylaxis to any substance should be monitored for 30 minutes after getting their shot.
Everyone else, including people with mild allergies or no allergies, need to wait only 15 minutes after getting their shot. Experts in allergy and immunology have said that the severe allergic reactions that require epinephrine or other urgent treatment are those that happen within the first 30 minutes after getting the shot. Allergic reactions can be dangerous, but they are rare and treatable. The tools to combat severe allergic reactions should be available at all vaccination sites. The coronavirus, on the other hand, can have far graver consequences!
The development of this vaccine was a remarkable achievement, demonstrating the power of science and its potential impact to save lives. I understand that some people mistrust the vaccine. This can be bred from political issues or from the significant amount of vaccine misinformation out there, which can be very frightening. As a physician, I am happy to know that people who want the vaccine in this country will be able to get it. I hope that most Americans will get the vaccine, to protect themselves and their families, and to help us all get back to work and school as soon as possible. I am also hopeful that all people around the world will soon have access to an effective vaccine if they want it.
As the New Year quickly approaches, I want to encourage you all to celebrate responsibly. Remember that COVID-19 loves a crowd! I also want to wish you a Happy New Year with hopes for a better year in 2021.
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Dr. Anita Bennett MD – Health Tip Content Editor