by Mary F.
On December 11, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued the first emergency use authorization for a COVID-19 vaccine to a drug produced by Pfizer and BioNTech. Last week, the vaccine started being administered in the UK. US health care workers began receiving the vaccine this week.
A health worker in Alaska reportedly had a serious allergic reaction after receiving Pfizer’s COVID-10 vaccine on Tuesday. According to three people familiar with the unidentified individual’s health, the health worker was hospitalized after receiving the vaccine, according to the New York Times. The individual, who had no history of drug or any other types of allergies, was still in the hospital under observation as of Wednesday morning.
Officials believe that the health worker’s reaction to the vaccine is similar to the anaphylactic reactions two health workers in Britain experienced after receiving the same vaccine last week.
Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening event that involves impaired breathing and a drop in blood pressure seconds or minutes after exposure to an allergen.
Both health workers in Britain, who have since recovered, had a history of allergic reactions. In fact, both people, a 49-year-old woman with a history of egg allergies and a 40-year-old woman with allergies to several different types of medications, carried EpiPen-like devices to inject themselves with epinephrine, which helps relax muscles blocking airways, in the event that they experienced allergic reactions.
After the two health workers in Britain suffered reactions from the vaccine, Dr. June Raine, chief executive of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in the United Kingdom, released new guidance related to the Pfizer vaccine.
“We have this evening (Wednesday 9 December 2020) issued updated guidance to COVID-19 vaccination centers about the management of anaphylaxis,” the statement reads. “Any person with a history of anaphylaxis to a vaccine, medicine or food should not receive the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. A second dose should not be given to anyone who has experienced anaphylaxis following administration of the first dose of this vaccine. Anaphylaxis is a known, although very rare, side effect with any vaccine. Most people will not get anaphylaxis, and the benefits in protecting people against COVID-19 outweigh the risks”.
The FDA has also warned people with allergies to consult their doctors to ensure they are not allergic to any components of the vaccine before receiving it.
“Do not administer Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine to individuals with known history of a severe allergic reaction (e.g., anaphylaxis) to any component of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine,” the FDA writes in its guidance.
The Trump administration is currently negotiating with Pfizer to secure more COVID-19 vaccines for the US this spring in addition to the 100 million the company has already pledged to supply, federal health officials confirmed Wednesday. Over the weekend, the company began shipping over 180,000 doses of the vaccine across 50 states.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said he is “very optimistic” about negotiations, the Washington Post reported.
“We are working with them to provide them whatever assistance now that they have identified some of the production challenges they got,” Azar noted at a Wednesday briefing.