Allergic reactions to the mRNA vaccines are rare – very rare, in fact. A person is MUCH more likely to die from COVID-19 or be a long-hauler than have an adverse reaction to the vaccines. The reactions are reported in individual cases in news media outlets as stories though – so, it can probably seem like they are more common than they are and make some people nervous about getting a vaccine. Let me help:
✅ PICTURE 1 – A study in JAMA (top-tier, peer-reviewed medical journal) looked at people who received their mRNA vaccines (Pfizer or Moderna) in December – this included 1.9 million people. They then looked at the VAERS reporting system to evaluate the occurrence of allergic reactions among these people. (We will talk about the VAERS in more detail below). What did they find?
◾Of the 1.9 million, 21 had severe allergic reactions; That equates to 11 cases per million doses.
◾Of the 21 severe allergic reactions:-17 had a previous allergic reaction history-17 were treated in the ED and discharged home-ALL 21 had allergic reactions within 3 hours after the vaccine (most were within the first 30 minutes).-All were discharged home; no deaths
✅ PICTURE 2
Let’s compare the allergic reactions to other common vaccines. Remember that we are comparing the mRNA vaccine (which has no dairy, eggs, nuts). Let’s compare per 1,000,000 doses (that’s the rate of daily vaccines happening now for COVID-19).
◾Pfizer COVID-19 mRNA vaccine – 11 cases (0.0011%)
◾Moderna COVID-19 mRNA vaccine – 2.5 cases (0.000025%)
◾Flu (influenza) vaccine – 1-2 cases (0.00001%)
◾DTaP – 1 case (0.0001%)◾MMR – 53 cases (0.0053%)
◾Bee stings – 4000 (0.4%)
✅ PICTURE 3
Now, let’s compare COVID-19 deaths
◾Case fatality rate – ~18,000 per 1 million (1.8%)-The case fatality rate varies across age groups and increases with age. This brings me to Picture 4 – it’s not just about dying from COVID-19
✅ PICTURE 4
Let’s compare COVID-19 long haulers
◾350,000 per 1 million had long-haul symptoms 14-21 days after testing (35%)
◾200,000 per 1 million healthy young adults 18-34 were considered long-haulers (20%)
◾Of the long-haulers, the median age was 44 and most were women. Yuk.
-For more on long COVID-19, go here: https://tinyurl.com/y2nomqkj
✅ TAKE HOME MESSAGE: Allergic reactions are very rare with the vaccines – magnitudes smaller than the risk of getting COVID-19, dying from COVID-19, or having long-hauler COVID-19 which can last for months and be pretty debilitating (and can affect every organ in the body, including the brain and heart). I hope this helps put you at ease about the safety of the vaccines. The rare allergic reactions we are seeing as vaccines continue to roll-out are what was seen in the vaccine trials (in other words, they are not expected or severe).
***I want to make a quick note about the VAERS reporting system. This is a system that has been around for a long time to report ANY symptoms after ANY vaccine. Individuals, individual’s families, and clinicians can report to the system in a passive manner (meaning anyone can report anything that looks suspicious). If severe adverse reactions or deaths are self-reported in VAERS, the CDC investigates. Remember the CDC members have families too which will receive vaccines and they want them to be safe. So, the VAERS is meant to be a safe-guard for all of us. The big thing to keep in mind is that the reporting is self-reported which may or may not be related to the vaccines. Remember our discussions on causation versus correlation? That cannot be determined through VAERS, which is why the CDC investigates the reports. So, when you hear reports about deaths in VAERS after the vaccines (I see those memes/headlines too), that does not necessaily mean those deaths are CAUSED by the vaccines. There’s so much circulating about this issue in the US and Norway and I will write a post specifically this week related to the VAERS. But for now, just know that correlation does not equal causation and the VAERS is a passive, self-reporting safe-guard system.
***Go here to see my full Vaccine Series if you have other questions: https://www.facebook.com/friendlyneighborepidemiologist/posts/157871299168861
Picture 1: Allergic reactions to mRNA vaccine datahttps://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2775646?fbclid=IwAR2uGRDNKeCOIWj7gEhzhuGDtPRdgtzUeZm6MYcHQskT1wiqgKMiGyOH1Go
Picture 2: Case fatality rateshttps://ourworldindata.org/grapher/deaths-covid-19-vs-case-fatality-rate?time=latest&country=USA~GBR~BRA~BEL~CHN
Picture 3: Allergic reactions to common vaccines https://www.aafp.org/afp/2017/0615/p786.html
Picture 4: Long COVIDhttps://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6930e1.htm