With both Covid-10 vaccines now on sale, more shots reach more arms. However, more recordings provide more data, more reactions and therefore more problems. Are the vaccines still safe? Despite news that a lot of the Moderna vaccine given in a California clinic caused severe reactions in single digit individuals, the answer for most people is yes.
Allergic reactions are an unlikely but real risk with either vaccine. A CDC report released recently last week showed 4,393 side effects from 1.9 million doses of Pfizer administered – 0.2% as of December 23. Of these, 21 were severe enough to be considered anaphylaxis – 11.1 cases per million doses. 17 of these patients had a history of allergies.
The CDC recommends that people with existing allergies use caution before receiving either vaccine. People who have reacted to other vaccines should see their doctor, while people who are allergic to components of the vaccines should not receive them at all. Those who have “had severe allergic reactions unrelated to vaccines or injectable drugs – such as food, pet, poison, environmental, or latex allergies” or “a history of oral drug allergies or a family history of severe allergic reactions” this can still get the vaccine.
Many of the allergic reactions can be related to the presence of a microplastic called polyethylene glycol (PEG), which is used in both vaccines, according to Science Magazine. The CDC instructions now say in bold: “People who are allergic to PEG or polysorbate should not receive an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.”
And in California, the state is suspending distribution of Moderna Lot 041L20A until an investigation including the CDC, Moderna and state officials is completed. The press release states that more than 330,000 cans from the same batch have been distributed to 287 vendors nationwide and that no incidents have been reported to date.
Risks to the infirm
The coronavirus pandemic was particularly dangerous for the elderly, with those over 65 being the most affected by the disease. and nursing home residents who account for the majority of deaths in many areas.
The vaccines could prove dangerous to these vulnerable elderly people.
In Norway, 23 elderly patients classified as “frail” died after receiving mRNA vaccines. The country has not yet made a clear link between the vaccine and these deaths as they are not outside the monthly average mortality rate. However, they do not write off the possibility of an impact.
Sigurd Hortemo, Chief Medical Officer of the Norwegian Medicines Agency said, “The reports suggest that common side effects of mRNA vaccines, such as fever and nausea, may have resulted in fatal outcomes in some frail patients.”
The CDC has issued a comprehensive guide to help vaccination sites prepare for possible allergic reactions.
The main parts of this plan are:
- 15-minute observation by a doctor after the vaccine (30 minutes if the recipient has had anaphylaxis or drug reactions in the past)
- Prepare tools such as adrenaline, antihistamines, stethoscopes, blood pressure cuffs, and pulse monitors at vaccination sites
- A quick response framework for immediate care and emergency services
The CDC has also added additional reports from long-term care facilities and insurance databases to its normal safety monitoring systems, as well as a new smartphone-based post-vaccination health assessment system called v-Safe. People can report to the CDC any health problems they have after receiving the vaccine. The system reminds users when it is time to take their second shot.
The v-Safe app is just one of many technologies under development to fight the pandemic. A new agreement between the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Ministry of Health and Human Services will help such innovations get to market faster in the future.