For example, one of the security measures that comes standard with themeans staying on site for a period of time after the injection is given to allow medical professionals time to monitor for any side effects. That doesn’t mean doctors expect anything bad to happen. Of the more than 1.1 million people vaccinated so far in the US, only a small handful have had allergic or other types of reactions.
But what about children, those with known allergies, and pregnant or nursing mothers? Here we collect available data from the FDA and CDC, along with information from leading health experts, to present a guide on who is advised to take theand who should contact a medical professional first.
When will there be a COVID-19 vaccine for children?
Currently, Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine is approved for use in people 16 years of age and older. (Moderna’s is for ages 18 and up). That’s because of the dozens of COVID-19 vaccines in development, including those from Pfizer and Moderna, none have yet been tested in children 12 or younger. That is expected. Vaccines are usually tested in adults first before researchers begin testing in children, once the drug has been determined to be relatively safe.
Another factor is that COVID-19 mainly seems to protect children from the worst outcomes. A September CDC report counted just 121 children among the 190,000 people who had died of the coronavirus so far in the US. Other research has found that children contract and spread the coronavirus about half as often as adults, although they are still considered vectors in the spread of COVID-19, especially among high-risk populations. For example, a report from the CDC this summer highlighted a summer camp in Georgia where coronavirus is rampant, causing more than 250 children and young adults to test positive for COVID-19.
Moderna will soon begin pediatric clinical trials involving children ages 12 through 17, the company announced in early December. That is a good sign.
Can people with allergies get the COVID-19 vaccine?
In the UK, on the first day of administration of the Pfizer vaccine, doctors observed two patients who had severe allergic reactions to the drug. Now British doctors are being told to monitor patients for 15 minutes after being given a COVID-19 vaccine. In the US, six serious allergic reactions occurred in the approximately 272,000 vaccines given before Dec. 19, according to the CDC. (There are now more than 1.1 million people in the US who have been vaccinated.)
The FDA says complications are rare and some people may have an allergic reaction to the COVID-19 vaccines, such as anaphylaxis or tissue swelling, from both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Some scientists are investigating whether the cause is an ingredient in the vaccine – but not the COVID-19 mRNA itself – that could trigger some of the reactions, The Wall Street Journal reported Dec. 25.
“CDC recommends that people with a history of severe allergic reactions unrelated to vaccines or injectable drugs – such as allergies to food, pets, poison, environment, or latex – should still be vaccinated,” the agency states one of its COVID – 19 Vaccines and serious allergic reactions page.
The FDA has published a fact sheet on the Pfizer vaccine and a separate fact sheet on the Moderna vaccine. Both publications warn, “A severe allergic reaction usually occurs within a few minutes to an hour of taking a dose …” Both magazines then list various signs and symptoms of such an allergic reaction:
- Breathing problems
- Swelling of the face and throat
- A fast heartbeat
- A rash on the whole body
- Dizziness and weakness
If you have had allergies in the past, you can expect to be monitored for 15 to 30 minutes after receiving the vaccine.
The FDA also recommends that you don’t use the Pfizer vaccine if you’ve ever had a severe reaction to any of these ingredients:
- Messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA)
- Lipids ((4-hydroxybutyl) azanediyl) bis (hexane-6,1-diyl) bis (2-hexyl decanoate) 2 [(polyethylene glycol)-2000]-N, N-ditetradecylacetamide 1,2-Distearoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine and cholesterol)
- Potassium Chloride
- Monobasic potassium phosphate
- Sodium Chloride
- Dibasic sodium phosphate dihydrate
The FDA similarly recommends avoiding Moderna’s vaccine if you are allergic to any of the ingredients:
- Lipids (SM-102, polyethylene glycol [PEG] 2000 dimyristoyl glycerol [DMG], cholesterol and 1,2-distearoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine [DSPC])
- Tromethamine hydrochloride
- Acetic acid
- Sodium acetate
You may still be able to receive a vaccine even if you have had allergic reactions to vaccinations in the past. In its most up-to-date guidelines, the CDC reiterates to the FDA by stating that just because you have had a severe allergic reaction after being vaccinated in the past, you shouldn’t automatically stop being vaccinated against COVID-19.
“These individuals can still be vaccinated, but they need to be educated about the unknown risks of developing a serious allergic reaction and weigh these risks against the benefits of vaccination,” the CDC says on its website.
Is the vaccine safe if you are pregnant or breastfeeding?
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, the FDA leaves the decision to use any of the currently approved COVID-19 vaccines up to you and your doctor. Regulatory authorities in the UK have so far advised against it until the vaccines can be tested on pregnant and nursing women. (No clinical studies have been conducted for this group to date.) Although coronavirus vaccines have yet to be studied in breastfeeding and pregnant women, many scientists believe that they are generally safe and that the benefits outweigh the potential risks.
If I can’t take a vaccine, how will I be protected against COVID-19?
If you are a patient with a health condition that your doctor does not recommend getting a COVID-19 vaccine, you may have to wait until enough people in the US have been vaccinated to protect yourself. Even if you don’t take a vaccine yourself, being surrounded by adequately vaccinated people – what is known as “herd immunity” – may provide some level of protection against the coronavirus. But that takes time. As many as 90% of the population may need to become immune to the disease before those still susceptible can be considered safe.
To initiate that process, it’s best to follow the CDC’s safety guidelines for now: wear a mask when indoors (except in your own home),, and keep a distance of at least 1.8 meters from people you do not live with.
It will take a while for life to return to normal. To get an idea of how long, take a look at this timeline of when different groups can do that. Several coronavirus vaccines are likely to be rolled out in the coming months, and will also help you determine when to take it. And last but not least, where you can get the vaccine.
The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to be health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care practitioner if you have any questions about a medical condition or health goals.