By Dr. George Voigtlander
The first day of Pfizer vaccine administration in Britain seemed to go well overall. The news did report that two nurses who received the vaccine had significant reactions to the vaccine. The National Health Service (NHS) responded to this recommending that people who have had severe allergic reaction not receive the vaccine.
A severe reaction is one where there are certain types of rashes, difficulty breathing, swelling of the throat and respiratory system or low blood pressure. The NHS issued this recommendation saying if you had to go to the emergency room and the doctor said it was severe and gave you a prescription for an epinephrine pen should not receive the vaccine.
People who have these severe reactions have a defective immune system. The most common triggers for these severe reactions are antibiotics, nuts, shellfish, certain fruits and pet dander. The vast majority of us can have our infections treated with penicillin or sulfa drugs. We also can enjoy a banana or kiwi fruit, some peanut butter on our toast in the morning, or some tasty shrimp. Cat lovers can cuddle with their pet cats without threat to their lives.
As I remember my civics class from over 60 years ago the U.S. Constitution provides for a series of checks and balances in government. Our immune system has similar checks and balances to prevent the overreactions seen in those few unfortunate people with severe reactions.
Dr. Bean and I have treated hundreds of these reactions. Our nurses and EMTs are trained to identify and respond to these emergencies. If you have been told to carry an EpiPen, let your provider know before receiving any vaccine.
The bottom line is not that the vaccine is not dangerous to people with a normal immune system, but those few with a tendency to immune overreaction need to be very cautious and postpone getting the vaccine until further direction from the experts.