San Diego County

Doctor Offers Reassurance After COVID-19 Vaccine Allergic Reactions

While they don't have an answer yet, Welch says a link has been found with one common ingredient

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Questions surrounding the coronavirus vaccine and allergic reactions heightened this week after the county reported allergic reactions had been detected in six Moderna vaccine recipients on Wednesday at the new vaccination superstation downtown.

“I couldn't feel my tongue and so I told them 'I can't feel my tongue and my neck hurts' and they immediately got some Benadryl,” said Diana Canizzo, a San Diego Health Care Worker. “They gave me 50ml of Benadryl and then they started monitoring me even closer. In the meantime, somebody else had come in a gurney."

County officials were forced to temporarily shut down and investigate. While allergic reactions are expected in mass vaccination operations, the county says the amount seen yesterday was higher than what they anticipated. 

“I would just prefer to not do that again," Canizzo said.

Allergist Michael Welch hopes the incident doesn't deter others from getting the vaccine. He says incidents like this don't happen often.

“It’s so rare that it should not hinder the mass majority of people from getting this vaccine,” said Dr. Welch.

He recommends everyone get it, even those with common allergies.

“People who have a peanut allergy, and these types of allergies should be assured that it is safe for them to get the vaccine,” Welch said.

But if you have experienced allergic reactions to a vaccine before, he suggests you contact your doctor first. 

In San Diego and across the U.S. researchers are still investigating the cause of these allergic reactions. While they don't have an answer yet, Welch says a link has been found with one common ingredient.

“It’s is called PEG,” Welch said. “It’s an uncommon allergy, but it does occur out there."

Polyethylene Glycol, or PEG for short, is a preservative used to help protect the vaccine. It is found in processed foods, cosmetics, and other medications. Miralax is one of those medications that use it. 

Both the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccine have PEG in them. So if you know you're allergic to it, Welch says you should talk to your doctor first. 

“Please get informed and don't come to the conclusion that you can't have the first dose or the second because of some problems that came with the first dose,” Welch said.

CDC guidelines recommend patients stay with the provider 15 minutes after receiving the dose. Welch says those who suffer from allergies should be monitored for 30 minutes after the immunization.

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