Despite threat of severe allergic reactions from COVID-19 vaccines, some willing to take risk

When Pfizer and Moderna first launched their vaccines, there were several reports of severe allergic reactions to an ingredient in the vaccines. This led to the CDC updating their recommendations for people with these rare allergies.

Yet some are willing to take that risk to get the vaccine.

When D. Harris went to get an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine, she was turned away.

"They said that they couldn't provide the supervision that I might need should I have a reaction," she said.

Harris told the staff at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Burbank that she's had allergic reactions to Polyethylene Glycol or PEG.

"I have a racing heart so if I'm sitting up, I'll pass out," she said, "And I have a severe burning pain."

PEG is in both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. The reaction can range from moderate to severe. Harris said she didn't have the more severe anaphylactic reactions such as a swollen tongue or airway constriction.

But the staff did not give her a shot because CDC guidelines state if you've had any allergic reaction to any ingredient in the current mRNA vaccines, you should not get vaccinated.

Teresa Frey, RN, MsN is the Regional Chief Quality Officer at Providence Southern California.

"If you have an anaphylactic, life-threatening allergic reaction, it wouldn't make sense to get the vaccine," she said, "Anything that feels unsafe where we could be putting someone at risk, we need to have a further conversation to make sure it's safe."

If you're allergic to a vaccine component, assess your risk with your physician. Bringing a doctor's note can help. If you have a severe allergy to an ingredient that's not in the vaccine, like food, pets or latex, the CDC recommends you can get vaccinated. But, talk to your doctor first.

Frey said, "It just requires a longer monitoring time and making sure that we have what we need to respond to that potential allergic reaction."

While the Johnson & Johnson vaccine does not contain PEG, Harris' doctor said based on her previous allergic reactions, that vaccine wasn't an option. So after consulting with Frey, Harris now has a vaccine appointment to get an mRNA vaccine. The staff has a plan to in place to take extra precautions. She urges others to keep the conversation going.

Harris said, "If we're willing, then we should have access to the vaccine."
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