The CDC is warning that people who are allergic to two particular chemicals should not take the COVID-19 vaccine. In a few cases, people with allergies to polyethylene glycol (PEG) or polysorbate have experienced anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction, after being vaccinated. Get your shot—"I feel extreme confidence in the safety and the efficacy of this vaccine," says Dr. Anthony Fauci—but not if you have these allergies. Read on to learn more about how who should not take the vaccine—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.
People Allergic to PEG or Polysorbate Should Avoid the COVID Vaccine
The CDC's language on its website is blunt: "People who are allergic to PEG or polysorbate should not get an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine," its website says. Polyethylene glycol is a component of the vaccine, a synthetic lipid (fat) that envelopes and protects the vaccine's mRNA. Polysorbate is not part of the vaccine but is chemically similar to PEG. Keep reading to see who else should avoid the vaccine.
People Who Have an Allergic Reaction After the First Shot Should Not Get the Second
The CDC also recommends that if you experience a severe allergic reaction to your first dose of the vaccine, you should not get the second shot. “Persons with an immediate allergic reaction to the first dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine should not receive additional doses of either of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines,” the CDC says.
Severe Allergic Reactions are Extremely Rare
Severe allergic reactions to the COVID vaccine are extremely rare. In mid-December, the CDC reported that 22 people had experienced anaphylaxis after being vaccinated, a rate of 11.1 per million doses given. “Even though there is a risk of anaphylaxis, it’s still very small — and the potential benefit from the COVID-19 vaccination clearly exceeds the potential for harm,” said Dr. David M. Lang, an allergist and chair of Cleveland Clinic’s Department of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. “The situation is evolving, however, and we’ll learn more as we gain more experience with these vaccines.”
Have Other Allergies? Get Vaccinated
The CDC says the warning doesn't apply to people who are severely allergic to things other than vaccines. "The CDC recommends that people with a history of severe allergic reactions not related to vaccines or injectable medications—such as food, pet, venom, environmental, or latex allergies—get vaccinated," the agency says on its website. "People with a history of allergies to oral medications or a family history of severe allergic reactions may also get vaccinated."
People who have had severe allergic reactions should be monitored at the vaccine site for 30 minutes after receiving the shot, the CDC says. An allergic reaction is considered severe if the person must be treated with ephedrine or an EpiPen, or if they have to go to the hospital.
How to Stay Safe During This Pandemic
As for yourself, do everything you can to prevent getting—and spreading—COVID-19 in the first place: Wear a face mask, get tested if you think you have coronavirus, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), practice social distancing, only run essential errands, wash your hands regularly, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, get vaccinated when it's your turn (if you're not allergic), and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.