Pfizer vaccine gives Queensland health care worker an anaphylactic reaction



A health worker on Queensland’s Gold Coast has had a severe anaphylactic reaction to the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

Gold Coast Health said the person — who has a history of anaphylaxis — recovered quickly and is well after yesterday’s incident.

It is the first reported case of a serious side-effect among the 6,500 people who have been inoculated in Queensland so far.

Authorities have said COVID-19 vaccines are safe and there are protocols in place for before and after the injection is given.

But how safe is safe?

University of Queensland virologist Kirsty Short said a reaction like this was completely normal for someone who had a history of anaphylaxis.

“This is something that has been built into the vaccine plan,” she said.

“They ask you a series of questions to check allergic reactions to any drugs. They are really erring on the side of caution.”

Someone who has a history would be asked to wait around for 15 to 30 minutes under medical care.

“You are in a room monitored by nurses, they have all the equipment there to deal with an anaphylactic reaction, if it should happen,” she said.

“It sounds like in this case everything was well managed and the individual is fine.

“This has already been flagged as a risk, there are risk mitigation strategies in place, so it is normal and nothing to be concerned about whatsoever.”

University of Queensland Virologist Dr Kirsty Short in a lab coat and glasses holding testing equipment.
Kirsty Short says people with other minor allergies should be monitored for longer after the Pfizer vaccine.(Supplied: University of Queensland)

Queensland Health said anaphylaxis following immunisation was “a serious but rare event” estimated to occur between 1 and 10 times per 1 million doses distributed, depending on the vaccine.

It said the Therapeutic Goods Administration had “rigorous safety standards”.

“[It has] robust procedures to quickly detect, investigate and respond to potential safety issues if they arise,” the Department said.

What about if I have other allergies and take daily medication?

You should not be worried at all.

Dr Short said if you were concerned, you should tell the person who gave the vaccine and you would be monitored for longer than other people.


Each case is addressed individually and Dr Short said there should be no concerns whether it is the jab was from Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has published varying advice on who should avoid what vaccines, but it recommends people with a history of severe allergic reaction to any component of the three vaccines not take them.

Queensland Health had the same advice, anyone with anaphylaxis can still get the vaccine, but anyone who has had a reaction to a previous dose or any ingredient of the same vaccine, cannot.

Bruce Willett from the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) also assured the public that common allergies are not a concern when it comes to the vaccine. 

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The Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines do not contain human or animal products, or common allergens such as latex, milk, lactose, gluten, egg, maize/corn, or peanuts.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention suggested that per 1 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, only 11 people would have a reaction.

The report showed of the 11 reactions, more than 80 per cent were people with an anaphylaxis history.

How quickly would an allergic reaction flare up?

You would rapidly notice something is wrong.

If you do have it, then it is unlikely to develop after 30 minutes.

Dr Willet said it was unlikely a person would have their first allergic reaction while receiving a coronavirus vaccine. 

He said for most people, it was safer to get the vaccine than not.

“The vast majority of people who will have anaphylactic reactions will have had a previous allergic reaction and will know they are an allergic-type person,” he said.

Dr Short said anaphylactic and allergic reactions were incredibly common, including nut, seafood and food allergies.

“This is just really reflective of that, it is not reflective of this vaccine,” she said.

“It is just we are examining this one with greater scrutiny we have never applied to a vaccine program before.

“So if you can get vaccinated, do so, as it is really our best defence against COVID-19.”

Could it kill me because of my allergies?

Dr Short said her answer would be if you are someone with severe allergic reaction, talk to your local GP.

“If you are concerned you could be given the vaccine in a safe area where you can be treated for any anaphylactic shock with medication,” she said.

“Like an adrenalin epi-pen in extreme circumstances.

“It is about a continual dialogue with the public, answering questions and saying this is normal, and nothing to be concerned or fearful about.”

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