As COVID-19 vaccines are distributed across the United States, many patients with allergies have questions about the safety of the vaccine and potential reactions. As of February 17, 2021, there are two mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) approved for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. A Johnson & Johnson adenovirus vaccine is currently under review for emergency use. There have been reports of allergic reactions to the vaccines in varying degrees, so it’s crucial for patients to understand the current medical recommendations for COVID-19 vaccination and allergies. The information below is for the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA COVID-19 vaccines.
COVID-19 Vaccine Information for People with Allergies
Past allergies to vaccines or injectable therapies
Anyone who has had an immediate allergic reaction to a vaccine or injectable therapy, including non-severe reactions, should talk to their doctor before getting a COVID-19 vaccine.
Allergies to polyethylene glycol (PEG) or polysorbate
PEG is an ingredient in the currently available mRNA Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. Polysorbate isn’t, but it is very similar to PEG and is an ingredient in other COVID-19 vaccines in development. Therefore, the CDC recommends that anyone with a documented allergy to PEG or polysorbate not receive the COVID-19 vaccine. At Allergy Tampa, we can test for allergies to PEG and polysorbate.
Past severe allergies that are unrelated to vaccines or injectable therapies
People who have had severe allergic reactions in the past to oral medications, food, pets and other environmental allergens, insect stings/venom, latex, and/or carry epinephrine are recommended to get vaccinated for COVID-19. You will be asked to wait 30 minutes (instead of the usual 15 minutes) after the vaccine is administered as a precaution.
Family history of severe allergic reactions
Anyone with a family history of severe allergic reactions is recommended to get vaccinated for COVID-19.
Severe and Immediate Allergic Reactions to the COVID-19 Vaccine
Some people have had severe reactions (anaphylaxis) after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. To be considered severe, allergic reactions must require treatment with epinephrine or hospitalization. Non-severe, immediate reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine have also been reported. These reactions involve the onset of symptoms including swelling, hives, and wheezing within four hours of vaccine administration.
As recommended by the CDC, anyone who had a severe or immediate allergic reaction to the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine shouldn’t receive the second dose. If you’ve ever had a severe or immediate allergic reaction to an ingredient in the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, you shouldn’t receive any vaccines containing that ingredient.
Delayed Reactions to the COVID-19 Vaccine
Swelling at the injection site a few hours following the vaccine is common. However, some people may develop injection site swelling several days after a COVID-19 vaccine. This is temporary and is usually not a reason to forgo the second dose.
If you are concerned about reactions to the COVID-19 vaccines or are interested in allergy testing for PEG or polysorbate, contact Tampa Allergy to schedule an appointment with one of our physicians.