The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to find the “culprit” behind reports of allergic reactions to the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, announced on Friday that at least five cases of allergic reactions to the vaccine, which began being administered last week, are being looked into by the agency.
“I think we have, at this point, the right system in place, [a] mitigation strategy with the availability of treatment for a severe allergic reaction being at the ready, and we’ll continue to monitor it very closely,” Marks told reporters on Friday evening.
It’s not clear what has been behind the negative reactions, but the chemical polyethylene glycol (PEG), also present in the Moderna vaccine, could be the “culprit.”
Reports of allergic reactions came from Alaska and other states last week, following similar instances reported from the United Kingdom.
One healthcare worker in Alaska reportedly experienced shortness of breath, elevated heart rate, and rashes, only 10 minutes after receiving the vaccine, and was transferred to an intensive care unit in Juneau, though she was treated and is now expected to make a full recovery.
Another healthcare worker in Alaska, who also reportedly had an anaphylactic reaction minutes after receiving the vaccine, experienced tongue swelling and difficulty breathing. She too has made a full recovery.
Federal guidelines currently recommend people receiving the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine be monitored for 15 minutes after receiving the shot, or 30 minutes if they have a history of allergic reactions.
Pfizer spokeswoman Jerica Pitts has said the company is “monitoring” growing reports of allergic reactions and they will “update labeling language if needed.”