Daily Sabah (Turkey)

Are you allergic? COVID-19 vaccines and very rare reactions

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THE POTENTIAL side effects of COVID-19 vaccines have increasing­ly become a topic of discussion, especially since the suspension of the Oxford-AstraZenec­a and Johnson and Johnson (J&J) vaccines in many countries over blood clot fears. People with serious medical allergies, in particular, have grown worried about the possible risks, though in these uncertain times it is easy to get worked up over nothing.

While it is true that the current COVID-19 vaccines have been reported to cause strong allergic reactions, it is extremely rare.

In Germany, allergy outpatient clinics are seeing an influx of people extremely worried about the vaccines, says Dr. Ludger Klimek, president of the Medical Associatio­n of German Allergolog­ists (AeDA). “Many would like to be vaccinated and are looking forward to it, and then they read that a severe reaction is possible,” he remarks. “This has raised a lot of uncertaint­y.”

Since vaccinatio­ns started in England and the United States, there have been reports of some strong allergic reactions that occurred shortly after vaccinatio­n and had to be treated. Precise data on the frequency of such reactions after COVID-19 vaccinatio­ns aren’t currently available, however.

Based on existing preliminar­y data, Klimek says, the new messenger RNA vaccines, also called mRNA vaccines, by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna likely carry a somewhat higher risk than the other COVID-19 vaccines, around 2.5 to 4 times higher. Neverthele­ss, he adds, the risk is still extremely low, namely “one case in every 100,000 vaccinatio­ns.”

Allergic reactions aren’t confined to COVID-19 vaccines, of course, but can occur after taking any medication. No one becomes allergic to a substance by taking a COVID-19 vaccine, says Klimek, explaining that an allergic reaction to an ingredient in the vaccine means you’ve already been sensitized to it. Since the injected dose of it is higher, the reaction can be stronger.

Not all allergy sufferers are affected equally. “If you have hay fever, you’re not really at higher risk of side effects than someone without allergies,” Klimek says.

However, if you’ve ever had an allergic reaction to certain medication­s, a laxative or X-ray contrast agent, for example, you might also have one to ingredient­s in the COVID-19 vaccines, says Klimek, noting that known allergenic substances in medication­s include polyethyle­ne glycol, polysorbat­e and ethylene oxide. While completely eliminatin­g risk is near impossible, Klimek says, you’d do well to consult an allergist if you’ve had an allergic reaction to a medication. If need be, the allergist can refer you to a specialize­d allergy center that can make a specific recommenda­tion based on your allergy and the ingredient­s in the various COVID-19 vaccines.

As for whether, say, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine would be a better choice than AstraZenec­a’s or vice versa, Klimek says: “[An assessment like] this is very complex and not affordable by every doctor’s surgery.”

In any event, health experts, such as those at Germany’s Federal Centre for Health Education (BZgA), have made it clear that if you know you’re allergic to an ingredient in a COVID-19 vaccine, you shouldn’t get that vaccine.

Before you’re vaccinated, it’s imperative that you accurately and thoroughly fill out your medical history questionna­ire, if in doubt, with the help of an allergist, so that personnel at the vaccinatio­n provider site know what to watch for and can further evaluate you if necessary.

After getting the jab, you have to remain on site for 15 minutes so that you can be monitored as a precaution. The wait is 30 minutes if you’ve ever had an allergic reaction to a vaccine, the BZgA says.

The most serious kind of allergic reaction is anaphylaxi­s, in which your immune system releases a flood of chemicals that can cause you to go into shock. “This is definitely life-threatenin­g,” remarks Klimek.

Less serious potential reactions include a skin rash, scratchy throat or itching.

According to the BZgA, vaccinatio­n provider sites and mobile vaccinatio­n teams are required to be equipped to treat any cases of anaphylaxi­s quickly.

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 ??  ?? A nurse carries several syringes with the AstraZenec­a vaccine against COVID-19, in Laakso hospital in Helsinki, Finland, March 11, 2021.
A nurse carries several syringes with the AstraZenec­a vaccine against COVID-19, in Laakso hospital in Helsinki, Finland, March 11, 2021.

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