Background: Acute allergic reactions to messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines are rare but may limit public health immunization efforts. Objectives: To characterize suspected allergic reactions to the first dose of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) mRNA vaccine and to assess the safety and utility of a two-step graded-dose protocol for the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in patients with a history of low suspicion of anaphylaxis to their first dose. Methods: This was a retrospective evaluation of referrals to the allergy and immunology clinic for a presumed allergic reaction to the first dose of the COVID-19 mRNA vaccine (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna) between December 17, 2020, and February 28, 2021. Recommendations for the second dose and outcomes were evaluated by trained board-certified allergists. Results: Seventy-seven patients presented with a Pfizer-BioNTech reaction (56 [72.7%]) or with a Moderna reaction (21 [27.3%]). Most patients (69.7%) had symptom onset within 4 hours. Most commonly reported symptoms were cutaneous (51.9%), cardiovascular (48.1%), and respiratory (33.8%) symptoms. Recommendations included to proceed with the single dose (70.1%), two-step graded dose (19.5%), or deferral (10.4%). Twelve of 15 patients completed the second dose with a graded-dose protocol. Of these patients, five reported at least one or more similar symptoms as experienced with their first dose. Conclusion: Of the patients with presumed allergic reactions to their first dose of COVID-19 mRNA vaccine, most were able to safely receive the second dose. For those with a low suspicion of anaphylaxis, the two-step graded protocol with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was well tolerated. A graded-dose protocol could be an effective strategy for second-dose vaccination in those who may otherwise defer the second dose.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy
- Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine