The UK’s world-first Covid-19 vaccine rollout has hit problems within 24 hours after anyone with a serious allergy to medicines or food was told not to have the Pfizer jab because two NHS staff who need EpiPens fell ill just after being vaccinated.
Up to 7million people in Britain have allergies severe enough to require medical care, according to the NHS, while around 250,000 people need to carry an EpiPen.
This raises serious questions about the safety of the vaccine, which was rushed through production and testing this year with a reported 63 day testing period on 46 human subjects only.
The two NHS staff suffered an anaphylactoid reaction to the vaccine, which is milder than anaphylaxis, and involves a rash, shortness of breath, swelling of the face and tongue, or a drop in blood pressure, the NHS says.
In the US vaccine trial carried out by Pfizer, 137 out of around 19,000 people given the vaccine had one or more of these reactions. Reactions to the jab can include a temperature, nausea, swelling of the arm or in severe cases feeling generally unwell with swollen lymph node glands.
Professor Stephen Powis, national medical director for the NHS in England, said: ‘The MHRA have advised on a precautionary basis that people with a significant history of allergic reactions do not receive this vaccination after two people with a history of significant allergic reactions responded adversely yesterday. Both are recovering well.’
The allergy scare came hours after Britain’s drug regulator dismissed safety fears over the Pfizer and BioNTech coronavirus vaccine after a report revealed four people in a trial in the US got Bell’s palsy. The condition, which is usually temporary, causes muscles on one side of the face to droop because of nerves not working properly.
A Pfizer spokesman said: ‘We have been advised by MHRA of two yellow card reports that may be associated with allergic reaction due to administration of the COVID-19 BNT162b2 vaccine.
‘As a precautionary measure, the MHRA has issued temporary guidance to the NHS while it conducts an investigation in order to fully understand each case and its causes. Pfizer and BioNTech are supporting the MHRA in the investigation.