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Severe allergic reactions to the coronavirus vaccine: Are they common?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said severe allergic reactions are rare.

Margarita Hernandez, margarita Hernandez, who tested positive for the coronavirus, waits in a tent to see a doctor for her allergic reaction to medication at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in the Mission Hills section of Los Angeles, Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020.ho tested positive for the coronavirus, waits in a tent to see a doctor for her allergic reaction to medication at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in the Mission Hills section of Los Angeles, Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020.
Margarita Hernandez, who tested positive for the coronavirus, waits in a tent to see a doctor for her allergic reaction to medication at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in the Mission Hills section of Los Angeles, Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020.
Jae C. Hong, Associated Press

Severe allergic reactions to the coronavirus vaccine are rather rare, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  • Only 21 people have experienced these reactions so far, based on 1,893,360 first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, according to the CDC.
  • That’s 11.1 cases per 1 million doses.
  • 71% of the reactions happened during the first 15 minutes of the vaccination.

The CDC said this has an impact on public health practices. People will need to be screened ahead of time to make sure they won’t have a severe reaction.

“Locations administering COVID-19 vaccines should adhere to CDC guidance for use of COVID-19 vaccines, including screening recipients for contraindications and precautions, having the necessary supplies available to manage anaphylaxis, implementing the recommended postvaccination observation periods, and immediately treating suspected cases of anaphylaxis with intramuscular injection of epinephrine.”

Weighing the risks

Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told a news conference that severe reactions for the COVID-19 vaccine are higher than with the flu shot, according to CNN.

  • “The anaphylaxis rate for COVID-19 vaccines may seem high compared to flu vaccines. But I want to reassure you that this is still a rare outcome,” she said.

She added that the known risks of the vaccine outweigh the risks of getting infected with the virus. However, that could change in the future, per CNN.

  • “The known and potential benefits of the current COVID-19 vaccines outweigh the known and potential risks, getting COVID-19,” Messonnier said. “That doesn’t mean, however, that we couldn’t see potential serious health events in the future.”