Can I Get The COVID-19 Vaccine If I Have Allergies?

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

On Dec. 14, Canada initiated the most complex vaccination project the country has seen to date: inoculating the population against COVID-19. As health care workers, long-term care residents and others in high-risk categories receive the first shots, Maclean’s rolls out Vaxx Populi, an ongoing series in which Patricia Treble tackles the most pressing questions related to the new COVID-19 vaccines.

Today’s question:

Can I get the COVID-19 vaccine if I have allergies?

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The most common complaints reported by people who have received the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine are discomfort at the injection site, fatigue and headaches, with some of those in the medical trial reporting that they felt “a bit more fatigue with the second shot,” said Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada’s chief medical adviser, when she announced that the two-shot vaccine had been approved for use in Canada. Those reactions are “in line with other vaccines,” said Sharma.

On Dec. 12, Health Canada issued official guidance for those with serious allergies. Noting that all vaccines in Canada “carry a warning about the risk of serious allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis, and immunization clinics are equipped to manage these rare events,” the federal government warned that “people with allergies to any of the ingredients of the [Pfizer COVID-19] vaccine are currently cautioned against receiving it.”

As well, Health Canada advised that if you have “experienced a serious allergic reaction to another vaccine, drug or food, you should talk to your health professional before you receive the vaccine.”

BOTTOM LINE: Many Canadians, age 16 and over, could experience mild or moderate reactions to the Pfizer vaccine, in line with what occurs with other vaccines, meaning they could last a few hours or a few days after immunization. Still, just as when people get other vaccines, including the seasonal flu shot, they will have to remain at the vaccination site for a while to make sure they are not having a more serious reaction.

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