Allergic reactions to COVID-19 vaccines are rare
By Thomas Voelker, MD
For the Star Journal
For most people, the worst part about getting a COVID-19 vaccine is likely to be a sore arm. But there have been rare occasions where people who received the vaccine have had severe allergic reactions.
To understand what is going on, it is important to keep the big picture in mind: So far, millions of people have received their first COVID-19 shot. Of these, health experts say only a small fraction have experienced a severe reaction, known as anaphylaxis.
Symptoms of anaphylaxis can include a swollen throat, shortness of breath, upset stomach, diarrhea, passing out or itching and swelling.
Anaphylaxis is a potentially life-threatening condition. That is why health care providers ask people to wait around for 15 to 30 minutes after you get your shot.
“You are monitored during this time to make sure you don’t have any reactions,” said Dr. Thomas Voelker, Aspirus regional medical director. “If you do, our vaccine clinics have medicines on hand to quickly treat an allergic reaction.”
Anyone who has symptoms like those mentioned above after leaving the vaccine clinic should call 911.
Who may be at risk?
Experts are still investigating. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is advising health care providers to take special precautions with people who have had a severe reaction to any other vaccines or injected medicines in the past.
“If you fall into that group, it does not necessarily mean you should not get a COVID-19 vaccine,” Dr. Voelker said. “You should talk with your health care provider about the risks and benefits in your case. He or she can help you decide what is best.”
The CDC says you may also be at risk for a reaction if you:
• Have had a severe allergic reaction to any ingredient in a COVID-19 vaccine. In that case, you should avoid that specific vaccine.
• Have had a severe allergic reaction to the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. In that case, talk to your health care provider for advice.
What about other allergies?
Many people have common allergies to things like food, medicines, latex, dust, or pollens. But this does not put people at risk for a COVID-19 vaccine reaction, the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology reports.
Remember: Severe vaccine reactions are rare. Getting your COVID-19 shots will help protect you from the disease. Talk to your health care provider if you have questions about whether a vaccine is right for you.
Follow up on your smartphone
After you get your vaccine, you can sign up for the CDC’s v-safe program. It will send personalized text messages to your smartphone to check in on any side effects you may have had. And it will remind you when it’s time to get your second dose, if needed.
You can sign up for the After Vaccine Health Checker on the Aspirus website at aspirus.org/vaccine or on the CDC website at https://vsafe.cdc.gov/
Requesting a vaccination appointment
Adults 65 and older are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. To request a vaccine appointment call back, visit aspirus.org/vaccine Appointments will be scheduled based on the amount of vaccine Aspirus receives each week.
The latest eligibility information and vaccine resources are available aspirus.org/vaccine.