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Forbes

Dec 16, 2020
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TOPLINE A healthcare worker in Alaska has had a severe allergic reaction to Pfizer and BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine, the New York Times reported Tuesday, but healthcare experts say that the vaccine is still safe for the general public.

KEY FACTS
The healthcare worker’s condition stabilized after going to the hospital, the Times reported.

Two healthcare workers in the U.K. had similar reactions to the vaccine last week.

Unlike the U.K. cases, the Alaskan healthcare worker reportedly did not have a history of allergic reactions to medications.

While the three allergic reactions are concerning, thousands of people have successfully been vaccinated so far, and the risk of an allergic reaction is considered to be extremely low.

“We don’t yet have all the details of the report from Alaska about a potential serious allergic reaction but are actively working with local health authorities to assess,” a spokesperson from Pfizer told Forbes, “We will closely monitor all reports suggestive of serious allergic reactions following vaccination and update labeling language if needed.”

KEY BACKGROUND
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was granted Emergency Use Authorization by the FDA late Friday evening. Over the weekend, the FDA released an updated fact sheet about the vaccine that advised patients to tell their doctors about any allergies before getting vaccinated. It also recommended that anyone who has had a severe allergic reaction to a previous dose of the vaccine or any component of the vaccine should not get vaccinated.

In a vaccine advisory board meeting last week, experts on the committee agreed that allergy treatments should be readily available wherever the vaccine is given.

On Monday, the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology released guidelines that said people with a known allergy to polyethylene glycol, a component of the Pfizer vaccine that has been linked to anaphylaxis in the past, should not get the vaccine. Otherwise, people should be observed for 20-30 minutes after getting the vaccine to make sure any allergic reactions can be quickly treated.

CRUCIAL QUOTE
On social media, experts tried to assuage the public’s concerns about the vaccine. “These reactions are VERY RARE,” said infectious disease physician Dena Grayson, adding that all three healthcare workers who had allergic reactions survived.

“Remember that we can treat allergic reactions,” said ER physician and former Baltimore City Health Commissioner Leana Wen, “it is much harder to treat consequences of Covid-19.”
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