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Doctors remain confident in COVID vaccine despite allergic reactions in UK patients

Published: Dec. 9, 2020 at 5:30 PM CST
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Doctors in Northeast Wisconsin are closely monitoring news out of the UK that two people of the thousands so far vaccinated suffered severe allergic reactions after receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

While they are waiting for more details, Prevea President and CEO Dr. Ashok Rai and BayCare Clinic Chief Medical Officer Dr. Ashwani Bhatia remain confident the vaccine is safe and should be broadly distributed after FDA authorization.

“I think the structures that need to be set up to make sure everybody’s safe are there,” says Dr. Rai.

“I am very confident that, barring a little bit of a hiccup here, I think everything will be fine,” says Dr. Bhatia.

Britain’s medical regulator is warning people with a history of serious allergic reactions that they should not get the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine as they look into whether the reactions are linked to the shots.

Doctors Rai and Bhatia say it is actually not uncommon for people who have such severe anaphylactic reactions that they have to carry EpiPens -- for anything from a bee sting to food allergy -- to have a reaction to this new vaccine.

They say less than one percent of the people in the vaccine trials experienced a severe reaction.

From what? Scientists are trying to find out.

“I think the initial reports are perplexing every scientist in the world, but I think it could be anything. It could be the compliment of a preservative in the vaccine. It could be that the vaccine itself. It could have been anything. It could be the way it was administered,” says Dr. Bhatia.

These doctors don’t want that to discourage people.

Instead, they say any details about the reactions is helpful information, so when the vaccine is rolled out in the U.S. soon, pending authorization from the FDA, they’ll be more prepared.

They already know everyone who receives it will be closely watched.

“This is not a vaccine that we want to give to a lot of people and not be able to monitor them after they have a shot,” says Dr. Rai. “We need a lot of education around this, and we need to keep following people going forward.”

Both medical experts are confident the FDA is reviewing this and will release recommendations for people here with very severe allergies.

They’ll follow any recommendations when it comes to determining who should be vaccinated, but they say people should talk with their own doctor if they’re in the small percentage of people who have severe allergic reactions to other things.

“I think we need to trust the process, and I think we need to trust our health care agencies and the regulators,” says Dr. Bhatia.

“I would expect an anaphylactic reaction to happen in a very tiny percentage of the population with anything we introduce -- a new medication, a new vaccine, a new product that people touch, that they could be allergic to anything new and can have this. And once again, it’s it’s such a small percentage of the population, it shouldn’t discourage people from getting the vaccine,” says Dr. Rai.

Both doctors say they intend to receive the vaccine without concern.

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