People who have allergies should receive vaccines at a hospital instead of at a primary health care center, a Turkish doctor said Tuesday following reports of allergic reactions to new COVID-19 vaccines.
In a written statement, the head of the Turkish National Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology Dr. Bülent Şekerel said severe allergic reactions to vaccines are extremely rare and anaphylaxis occurs in about 1.3 out of 1 million doses of vaccine.
The allergic risk of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna's mRNA vaccines is 11 in 1 million, a tenfold higher risk compared with routine vaccines, Şekerel said.
"But this difference is not related to what the vaccine was made of, namely the coronavirus, rather the results from a new technique in producing the vaccines," he noted.
Şekerel explained that this potential higher risk with mRNA vaccines results from a component of the vaccine called polyethylene glycol, or PEG.
Reports of allergic reactions to the new mRNA vaccines have surfaced in Europe and the U.S. California's state epidemiologist in January urged a halt to a certain lot of Moderna vaccines in the state because some people received medical treatment for possible severe allergic reactions after getting vaccinated.
The vaccine currently being administered in Turkey, a product of the Chinese biopharmaceutical firm Sinovac, uses an inactivated form of the virus. (To learn more about the different types of vaccines against the coronavirus, click here.)
"The CoronaVac vaccine used in our country is produced with an old technique, and theoretically, a high risk is not expected unlike in mRNA vaccines," Şekerel explained.
Adverse reactions due to vaccination are monitored by the Health Ministry, Şekerel said, adding, "No group expected to experience an allergic reaction to the CoronaVac vaccine has been identified."
"Currently, before the administration of the vaccine in Turkey, people are asked if they have any known allergy to the vaccine or its components. We recommend that those who are allergic to any substance or food should get vaccinated in hospitals instead of primary health centers," he advised.
Şekerel said one-third of Turkey's population has allergic rhinitis, asthma or skin or food allergies. "There is no evidence that these people are at risk for COVID-19 vaccines," he noted.
He stressed that all severe allergic reactions are experienced within 30 minutes of receiving the vaccine, so it is a common practice worldwide to monitor vaccinated people for at least 30 minutes after vaccination.
"For this reason, all health care facilities where vaccinations are administered are equipped with trained personnel to recognize allergic reactions and appropriate treatment equipment," he said.
For those who know they have an allergy to the vaccine, Şekerel recommends they not get vaccinated. "However, if the vaccination is compulsory, a different approach called 'gradual dosing' could be implemented," he noted.