How troubling are allergic reactions to Pfizer and Moderna vaccines?

There have been several reports of individuals having received the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) is BioNTech (NASDAQ: BNTX) and experiencing severe allergic reactions. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Advisory Committee that examined Modern‘S (NASDAQ: MRNA) the coronavirus vaccine focused on the potential for similar reactions. In this Motley Fool Live Video recorded on December 18, 2020, Corinne Cardina, head of the health and cannabis office, and Keith Speights, writer of, discuss how troubling these allergic reactions should be.

Corinne Cardina: Another thing that came up in the panel, many people have questions about it because, obviously, this kind of thing is news: allergic reactions. I know we talked about some allergic reactions in the UK, but those were people who had a history of allergic reactions.

The big headline in the past couple of days has been, someone in Alaska who had no history of allergic reactions, having an anaphylactic reaction. The FDA wants to make sure doctors have the right treatments for anaphylaxis on hand. You need to sit and be observed for several minutes after receiving the vaccine, just to make sure you don’t have a reaction. What did the FDA advisory committee say about these reactions?

Keith Speights: Well, they discussed it and just – a similar story that happened last week with the Pfizer vaccine. This kind of thing can happen, and it’s obviously worrying.

But the main thing is that they just want to make sure there is an observation period, as you said, Corinne, where people don’t just get the vaccine and leave immediately. They want them to hang around for 15, 20 minutes or so, just to make sure they don’t get a reaction. They want to have oxygen close at hand, they want to have adrenaline at hand to deal with any anaphylactic reactions.

Again, this is by no means unusual with vaccines. People have allergic reactions. You mentioned the person from Alaska. Also, it’s not all that unusual for someone not to have a history of allergic reactions and then develop an allergic reaction. I personally know people who have spent their entire lives loving to eat shrimp and lobster, and in their 40s develop shellfish allergies, almost seemingly overnight. You can have a history of any of these allergic reactions and develop it unknowingly.

It is important that people are observed for a few minutes after receiving the vaccine. But in the end, this wasn’t a show in any way. Again, this is a normal thing with any vaccine, so the FDA advisory committee has definitely discussed this, but the main thing they want to do is just take a few standard precautions.

Corinne Cardina: Absolutely. It’s important to remember that these reactions that new stories are written about are still pretty rare, so you don’t want to blow them out of proportion and not get the vaccine because of them. Even the woman in Alaska who was hospitalized told everyone, “I’m still so happy I got the vaccine. You should do it.” It was good to hear.