UK warns people with significant allergies should avoid Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine

Last Updated 11 December, 2020. Cellspect Co., Ltd.

One day after the U.K was hailed for administering the first coronavirus vaccine shots in the west, its medicine regulator has advised that people with a history of significant allergic reactions do not get Pfizer/BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine after two healthcare workers reported adverse effects on the first day of rollout. [1]

Starting with the elderly and frontline workers, Britain began mass vaccinating its population on December 8, part of a global drive that poses one of the biggest logistical challenges in peacetime history. The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said there had been two reports of anaphylaxis and one report of a possible allergic reaction since rollout began. Both workers have a history of severe allergies and carry adrenaline auto injectors (such as EpiPens) around with them. Shortly after receiving the vaccine, both workers developed anaphylaxis-like symptoms, or severe allergic reactions, but have recovered after receiving treatment. [2]

"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 autoinjector) should not receive the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine," according to the advice issued by the MHRA. [1,2]

It was not immediately clear what triggered the allergic reactions. Unlike some vaccines, in the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine there are no preservatives or egg products, which have been known to trigger reactions with other types of vaccines. Allergic reactions were not a significant problem in the U.S. trial in which more than 20,000 people have received both two doses of the vaccine, but Pfizer previously said that people with a history of severe adverse allergic reactions weren't included in late stage trials. Indeed, only 0.63% of people who were given the vaccine and 0.51% of people who were given the placebo reported allergic reactions — some of which were mild — in the trials. "Allergic reaction occurs with quite a number of vaccines, and perhaps even more frequently with drugs. 

So, it is not unexpected," Stephen Evans, a professor of pharmacoepidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said in remarks to journalists published by Britain's Science Media Center. [2, 3] “What would be wise, as the MHRA have already advised, would be for anyone who has known severe allergic reaction such that they need to carry an EpiPen, to delay having a vaccination until the reason for the allergic reaction has been clarified," he said. [4]


For the general population this does not mean that they would need to be anxious about receiving the vaccination, he added. "One has to remember that even things like marmite [a quintessential British food spread] can cause unexpected severe allergic reactions.” [4]


  1. 9 Dec 2020. “U.K. warns people with ‘significant’ allergies to avoid Pfizer coronavirus vaccine” Reuters global news.

  2. Yasemin Saplakoglu. 9 Dec 2020. “People with significant allergies should avoid Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, UK warns” LiveScience News Release.

  3. Emma Reynolds, Sharon Braithwaite and Amy Cassidy. 9 Dec 2020. “Allergy warning for Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine after UK health workers with allergy history suffer reaction” CNN health news.

  4. Alistair Smout. 9 Dec 2020. “UK issues anaphylaxis warning on Pfizer vaccine after adverse reactions” Reuters.

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