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Risk of having severe allergic reaction to COVID vaccine extremely rare: CDC

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SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) — Millions of Americans are being vaccinated right now against COVID-19 to help finally bring the pandemic under control.

Some people are feeling frightened, wondering how their body will respond to newly-developed COVID vaccines. There have been a few reports of individuals dying hours after receiving an injection, or experiencing severe allergic reactions.

Here are the facts, according to the CDC’s most recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report:  severe allergic reactions are extremely rare, and these reactions are treatable, not fatal.

Dr. Peter Chin-Hong of UC San Francisco is a leading national authority on the coronavirus.

He said the CDC discovered that only 11 per 1 million people experienced severe reactions from the Pfizer vaccine, and only 2.5 per 1 million people who received the Moderna dose.

Zero deaths have been directly tied to a COVID vaccine, the CDC concluded.

KRON4’s Q&A with Dr. Chin-Hong is below:

Q: Looking at this most recent CDC Morbidity and Mortality study, what are your thoughts?

A: We have heard stories of people having these severe allergic reactions. But until these new (CDC) reports, even though we knew it was rare, we didn’t really have a number to put on it. But getting these CDC results really is reassuring, because it tells us that they are not just rare , they are really, really, really rare.”

Q: There has always been fear around vaccines in general. These COVID vaccines are brand new. What would you say to people who are feeling fearful because the vaccines are so new? Whether they should get one or not? 

A: So far, millions of people have gotten them. Most people, if they have a severe reaction, that occurs within 7.5 minutes. For overall allergies, you can get headache, nausea, fatigue, or soreness of the arm. Even with the severe allergies, they all go away. We know from the tens of thousands of people from the original trials, nothing has happened to them since then. So these are all reassuring (statistics). In the big picture, the benefit is so, so, so much more than the potential risk. I hope everyone will feel as hopeful and excited as I am. In fact, today, I got my second shot of Pfizer. I feel like I can conquer the world.”

Q: Just to really bring the point home, has anyone been confirmed to have died from a COVID vaccine?

A health worker gives a Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 jab to an elderly woman. (Photo by Omar Marques/Getty Images)

A: No one has died as a result of the vaccine, that has been confirmed. Of course when you think about vaccinating millions and millions of people, people are going to have what they normally would have had, whether or not they got he vaccine or not. As of this moment, I would say, definitively, no.” 

Q: Can you talk about the difference between the two main vaccines out there? 

A: Both of these vaccines are M-RNA vaccines, Messenger RNA vaccines. What they are, essentially, they are a bit of genetic material, that’s the message. It’s encased in this little fatty bubble. When you inject it into the body, that message it taken up by the cells. The cells become a factory. They read that message and they say, ‘I’m going to make a lot of spike proteins. Not the virus.’ And then when the real thing comes along, your immune system recognizes it. And stops it in its tracks. Overall, the risk of a severe allergic reaction is so minute, that it should not be a consideration. If people are offered a P or M vaccine, they should get the first (vaccine) that is available. Time is everything with COVID. (Allergic reactions) are very rare, and they are all treatable.”  The role of vaccination is huge in society. If we all get vaccinated, at 70 percent and higher, we can all engage in the life we had before COVID. Rock concerts, Golden Gate Park, big weddings.” 

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