Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine not recommended for people with certain allergies

Dec 12 2020, 4:59 pm
  • Health Canada is recommending that people with certain allergies refrain from getting Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.

The health authority issued the recommendations on December 12, following two reports of anaphylactoid reactions in the UK.

Both people had a history of severe allergic reactions and carried an EpiPen, according to Health Canada. They have both recovered.

“People with allergies to any of the ingredients of the vaccine are currently cautioned against receiving it,” Health Canada said.

It is also recommended that those who have experienced a serious allergic reaction to another vaccine, a drug, or food, talk to their doctor before getting the vaccine.

The medicinal ingredient in the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is mRNA. The non-medicinal ingredients are lipids ALC-0315 and ALC-0159, as well as cholesterol, dibasic sodium phosphate dihydrate, monobasic potassium phosphate, potassium chloride, sodium chloride, and sucrose. Water is also used for the injection.

In Canada, all vaccines carry a warning about the risk of serious allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis. Health Canada says immunization clinics are equipped to manage these rare events.

The side effects that were experienced during clinical trials of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine include pain at the injection site, body chills, feeling tired, and feeling feverish.

These reactions are similar to the side effects caused by other vaccines, the health authority said. They go away on their own and don’t pose a health risk.

“Health Canada has conducted a rigorous scientific review of the available scientific evidence to assess the safety, efficacy, and quality of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine,” they said. “No major safety concerns have been identified.”

Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate was approved for use in Canada on December 9, and immunizations are expected to start as early as December 15. The vaccine will only be available to those over the age of 16, as there is not enough data on how it affects younger people.

Following the approval, a senior medical advisor with Health Canada said that while rare, the vaccine could pose some risks.

“When we do an authorization, it means that we’ve looked at it and the benefits outweigh the potential risks. But, it is still a drug. It’s still a vaccine,” said Dr. Supriya Sharma. “There are potential risks, even if they’re rare.”

Ahead of the vaccine’s rollout, the Public Health Agency of Canada has launched a Vaccine Injury Support Program to assist those who have a serious adverse reaction to an approved vaccine.

Canada has deals with seven vaccine manufacturers, including Pfizer, to procure up to 194 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines. Health officials have the option to purchase an additional 220 million doses if need be.

To date, Canada has seen 448,841 COVID-19 cases and 13,251 deaths. Federal health officials have warned that if we don’t limit our daily contacts, the country could see up to 577,000 cases and 14,920 deaths by Christmas.

Zoe DemarcoZoe Demarco

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