People with a history of “significant” allergic reactions have been told not to take the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine after two National Health Service (NHS) workers who received the jab had “adverse” reactions.
British medical officials confirmed that two staff members who were administered doses on Tuesday – on the first day of the mass vaccination programme – suffered an allergic reaction.
Both staff members have a significant history of allergic reactions, to the extent where they need to carry an adrenaline auto-injector with them, it is understood, said the agencies handling the distribution of the vaccine.
They developed symptoms of “anaphylactoid reaction” shortly after receiving the vaccine, but both recovered after the appropriate treatment.
After the incident, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) told NHS trusts that anyone who has a history of “significant” allergic reactions – including to medicines, food or vaccines – should not currently receive the vaccine.
Professor Stephen Powis, national medical director for the NHS in England, said: “As is common with new vaccines, the MHRA have advised on a precautionary basis that people with a significant history of allergic reactions do not receive this vaccination after two people with a history of significant allergic reactions responded adversely yesterday.
“Both are recovering well.”
Dr June Raine, chief executive of the MHRA, which approved the Pfizer/BioNTech jab, said that similar reactions “were not a feature” of the vaccine trials.
She told a committee of MPs in UK Parliament that careful plans had been made for “real-time vigilance” when monitoring side effects from vaccinations and that any updates to advice for patients would be communicated “immediately”.
“The role is before, during and after, and there is a true end-to-end looking from the scientific laboratory bench through to the patient who yesterday first received the vaccine,” she told the Commons Science and Technology Committee.
“As an illustration to this, I may share with the committee that even last evening we were looking at two case reports of allergic reaction.
The MHRA advice states: “Any person with a history of a significant allergic reaction to a vaccine, medicine or food (such as previous history of anaphylactoid reaction or those who have been advised to carry an adrenaline auto-injector) should not receive the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine.
“Resuscitation facilities should be available at all times for all vaccinations. Vaccination should only be carried out in facilities where resuscitation measures are available.”
Thousands have been receiving the vaccines across the UK since Tuesday, making it second country after Russia to start vaccinating its people.
The vaccines are being given to elderly, people in care homes and medical staff handling COVID-19 patients.