With the announcement of the 3 vaccines- The Pfizer, The Moderna and The AstrazZeneca, the race to be the most effective vaccine in terms of cost, efficacy and storage is on. On December 8, the UK National Health Services (NHS) administered the Pfizer vaccine to NHS staff and patients who were 80 years and above. However, in an unprecedented move, 2 people reported allergic reactions on the very first day of the Pzifer vaccine’s rollout in Britain
What was the Pfizer allergic reaction case?
Since the administration of the vaccine begun in Britain, UK officials have reported 2 cases of anaphylaxis and 1 possible case of a allergic reaction. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology , anaphylaxis results in difficulty in berating, swallowing and swelling of the throat. The UK National Health Services described this condition as a severe reaction of the body immune system which could in certain cases, also be life threatening. This is why the vaccine could not be suitable to everyone.
Who should NOT take the Pfizer vaccine?
Since the adverse reaction to the vaccine is allergy based, UK Health Regulators stated that anyone who has a history of a significant allergic reaction or anaphylaxis to a vaccine, medicine or food should not opt for the Pfizer shot.
The NHS medical director, Professor Stephen Powis, issued a statement saying “As is common with new vaccines, the MHRA have advised on a precautionary basis that people with a significant history of allergic reactions do not receive this vaccination, after two people with a history of significant allergic reactions responded adversely yesterday. Both are recovering well.”
The NHS workers in questions have now been advised to carry adrenaline autoinjectors such as an EpiPen or Emerade which suggests that they were more at risk for allergic reactions as they have suffered them in the past.
Does this affect Pfizer’s prospects for U.S authorisation ?
Moncef Slaoui, who is leading the way for U.S government’s vaccine development , said that following the allergic reaction cases, considerations would have to be taken in the U.S authorisation process. He also said that people who have a prior history of severe allergic reactions should be advised against taking the vaccine, at least until more was understood about it.
On December 11, the The Food and Drug Administration authorised the Pfizer vaccine to be administered for emergency use. A letter from the FDA to Pfizer reads -"the known and potential benefits of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID‑19 vaccine" outweigh its potential risks for people ages 16 and older.
What do doctors have to say about Pfizer?
People were apprehensive about taking the vaccine following these cases but while some have praised U.K’s promptness in dealing with this, others have saved such broad restrictions were not needed due to lack of evidence.
Stephen Evans, a professor of pharmacoepidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine says “For the general population, this does not mean that they would need to be anxious about receiving the vaccination”. However, he also advised “for anyone who has known severe allergic reaction such that they need to carry an EpiPen to delay having a vaccination until the reason for the allergic reaction has been clarified.”
Peter Openshaw, a professor of experimental medicine at Imperial College London, praised U.K for handling these cases in a way that prevented the escalation of this situation. “The fact that we know so soon about these two allergic reactions and that the regulator has acted on this to issue precautionary advice shows that the monitoring system is working well,” he said.
While precautionary advise has been beneficial in educating people about the possible risk, Mitchell Grayson, director of the division of allergy and immunology at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio is concerned about the readiness of the people in taking the vaccine. He said “I’m worried the whole event will cause millions of people to choose not to get vaccinated because of what they heard”
In response to this entire situation Pfizer UK issued statements that said “We have been advised by MHRA of two yellow card reports that may be associated with allergic reaction due to administration of the COVID-19 BNT162b2 vaccine. As a precautionary measure, the MHRA has issued temporary guidance to the NHS while it conducts an investigation in order to fully understand each case and its causes. Pfizer and BioNTech are supporting the MHRA in the investigation”
So although you may be ready to take the vaccine when it becomes available to the public, it is best to read the label and take the necessary precautions before doing so.