Q: What is the COVID-19 vaccine recommendation for people with a history for anaphylaxis?

Purvi Parikh, MD: People with a history of anaphylaxis can go ahead and get the vaccine unless they have a known allergy to one of the ingredients:

  • polyethylene glycol for the mRNA vaccine
  • polysorbate-80 for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine

People should get the vaccine even if they have a history of anaphylaxis to food allergy or medication. The vaccines do not contain any food proteins or proteins from medications such as penicillin.

Prior to vaccination, discuss the vaccine with your allergist to ensure the vaccine is safe for you and how it might affect your own personal risk profile.

If you are someone who is prone to severe allergic reactions, be sure to get the vaccine in a medical facility that is equipped to treat anaphylaxis. You should wait for 30 minutes after receiving the vaccine to ensure there’s no reaction.

Q: Do people who were previously COVID-19 positive still need to get the vaccine?

Dr. Parikh: People who have had the COVID-19 infection should still get the COVID-19 vaccine. Numerous studies show that vaccine immunity lasts longer and is more durable than immunity from natural infection.

Also, natural infection immunity is variable. One person may develop robust immunity from a COVID-19 infection while another person may not. The vaccine helps ensure you don’t get very sick with COVID-19.

Q: Does the vaccine prevent you from getting COVID-19 or does it prevent you from getting very sick?

Dr. Parikh: The vaccine is not a 100% bulletproof shield. What it does do is, if you are infected with COVID-19 and get sick, it saves your life and it keeps you from hospitalization. If you’re vaccinated, your symptoms will be mild.

In some cases, the vaccine does prevent you from getting it altogether. Some people are lucky in that vaccine immunity just stops the virus and nips it in the bud before it can result in infection.

Purvi Parikh, MD, is a board-certified allergist and immunologist with Allergy and Asthma Associates of Murray Hill and New York University School of Medicine in New York City. She is also a member of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

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