After some people suffered from allergic reactions after receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, the National Institutes of Health has launched a study to find out why. Public health officials say the leading indicators to the vaccines show that people with a history of allergies have been the most prone so far.
The NIH study will last 17 weeks at 35 sites across the country, testing 3,400 adults between the ages of 18 and 69. Approximately two-thirds of participants enrolled will be female. This is because the vast majority of allergic reaction cases have occurred in women.
“The public understandably has been concerned about reports of rare, severe allergic reactions to the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in a statement.
“The information gathered during this trial will help doctors advise people who are highly allergic or have a mast cell disorder about the risks and benefits of receiving these two vaccines. However, for most people, the benefits of COVID-19 vaccination far outweigh the risks.”
The effects of the vaccine allergies
The first thing to keep in mind is that these allergies are -- like Dr. Fauci said -- rare. Nonetheless, the NIH wants to get ahead of the situation as soon as it can.
To date, instances of an allergic reaction usually show up within 4 hours of getting vaccinated. The symptoms have included swelling, hives, and wheezing, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
However, there have been a handful of reported cases involving the Pfizer vaccine that resulted in anaphylaxis, a severe and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. Just last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Palforzia, a drug intended to reduce the risk of anaphylaxis and other severe allergic reactions linked to accidental peanut exposure in children and teens.
Do your homework before getting vaccinated
The CDC warns people that if they had a severe allergic reaction after getting the first shot of a COVID-19 vaccine, they should not get a second shot of that same vaccine.
It’s also important to know which allergic reactions and side effects to look out for when getting vaccinated. The CDC has a complete list detailing those, and it also provides a list of the ingredients in each vaccine so people can avoid them if they are allergic. Consumers can find information on the Pfizer vaccine ingredients here, the Moderna ingredients here, and the Johnson & Johnson ingredients here.