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How Concerning Are the Allergic Reactions to Pfizer's and Moderna's Vaccines?

By Keith Speights - Dec 24, 2020 at 9:05AM

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There aren't big reasons to worry at this point.

There have been several reports of individuals receiving the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer ( PFE 2.32% ) and BioNTech ( BNTX 3.17% ) and experiencing serious allergic reactions. The advisory panel to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that reviewed Moderna's ( MRNA 1.74% ) coronavirus vaccine focused on the potential for similar reactions. In this Motley Fool Live video recorded on Dec. 18, 2020, healthcare and cannabis bureau chief Corinne Cardina and writer Keith Speights discuss how big of a concern these allergic reactions should be.

Corinne Cardina: Another thing that came up in the panel, a lot of people have questions about it because, of course, these kinds of things make headlines: allergic reactions. I know that we talked about some allergic reactions in the U.K., but those were people who had a history of allergic reactions.

The big headline in the couple past days has been, someone in Alaska who did not have a history of allergic reactions, having an anaphylactic reaction. The FDA wants to make sure the doctors have the right treatments for anaphylaxis on hand. You have to sit and be observed for several minutes after getting the vaccine, just to make sure that you don't have a reaction. What did the FDA Advisory Committee say about these reactions?

Keith Speights: Well, they did discuss it and just -- a similar story that happened last week with the Pfizer vaccine. This kind of thing can occur, and it's obviously concerning.

But the main thing is they just want to make sure that there is an observation period, like you mentioned, Corinne, that people don't just get the vaccine and immediately leave. They want them to stay around for 15, 20 minutes or so, just to make sure they don't have a reaction. They want to have oxygen on hand, they want to have epinephrine on hand to address any anaphylactic reactions.

Again, this is not unusual with vaccines at all. People do have allergic reactions. You mentioned the Alaska person. It's also not really all that unusual for someone to have not had a history of having allergic reactions and then to develop an allergic reaction. I personally know people who spent their entire life loving to eat shrimp and lobster, and in their 40s develop shellfish allergies, just nearly seemingly overnight. You can have a history of none of these allergic reactions and develop it unknowingly.

It is important that people are observed for a few minutes after receiving the vaccine. But ultimately, this wasn't a showstopper by any means. Again, this is a normal thing with any vaccine, and so the FDA advisory committee certainly discussed it, but the main thing they want to do is just take some standard precautions there.

Corinne Cardina: Absolutely. It's important to just remember that these reactions that new stories are written about, they're still quite rare, and so you don't want to blow it out of proportion and not get the vaccine because of them. Even the woman in Alaska who was hospitalized as a result told everyone, "I'm still so glad I got the vaccine. You should get it." That was good to hear.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis – even one of our own – helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.

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Stocks Mentioned

Pfizer Inc. Stock Quote
Pfizer Inc.
$54.27 (2.32%) $1.23
Moderna, Inc. Stock Quote
Moderna, Inc.
$306.72 (1.74%) $5.23
BioNTech SE Stock Quote
BioNTech SE
$344.06 (3.17%) $10.57

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