29 serious adverse events reported in U.S. after coronavirus vaccinations

There have been 29 serious adverse events after coronavirus vaccinations reported in the U.S. and health officials there are urging individuals who had a serious reaction to the first dose of vaccine not to get the second dose.

Severe reactions still 'exceedingly rare' but more common than with flu shots, CDC says

A nurse prepares a vaccine to protect against COVID-19 last month. Most adverse events after the vaccinations in the U.S. so far occurred within 15 minutes of receiving the shot. (Erin Clark/Reuters)

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said it is carefully monitoring allergic reactions to the coronavirus vaccines and urged individuals who had a serious reaction not to get the second dose.

In a conference call with reporters, the U.S. public health agency said Wednesday allergic reactions are occurring at a rate of 11.1 per one million vaccinations. That compared with flu vaccines, in which such reactions occur at a rate of 1.3 per one million shots.

The severe reactions are still "exceedingly rare," they said, stressing the need for people to get vaccinated when the shots become available to them, given the threat of death and serious disease from the coronavirus that has already claimed more than 357,000 lives in the United States alone.

The CDC said it is monitoring allergic reaction incidents closely and plans to post weekly updates on its website.

The agency is also urging that venues that deliver the vaccine be prepared not only to recognize serious allergic reactions, known as anaphylaxis, but be trained on how to treat them and recognize when individuals need to be referred to hospitals for additional care.

Health agencies caution those with allergies

CDC officials said 28 people who received the coronavirus vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech had severe allergic reactions. They also noted one case of anaphylaxis, which can cause throat swelling and breathing difficulty, after an individual received Moderna's vaccine.

Officials attributed the difference largely to the fact that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was authorized earlier than the Moderna shot, and said the precautions apply to both.

A study published on Wednesday in the CDC's weekly report on death and disease looking at cases between Dec. 14 and Dec. 23, identified 21 cases of anaphylaxis after the administration of 1,893,360 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Of these, 71 per cent occurred within the first 15 minutes after vaccine administration.

In both the U.S. and Canada, vaccine recipients are supposed to hang around after the injection in case signs of an allergy appear and they need immediate treatment. 

Health Canada has advised that people with allergies to any of the ingredients in the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna coronavirus vaccines should not receive them and should speak with their health professional about any serious allergies or other health conditions they may have before they receive a coronavirus vaccine.

Britain's medical regulator has said that anyone with a history of anaphylaxis, or severe allergic reactions to a medicine or food, should not be given the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

With files from CBC News