Local virologist responds to viewers' questions on COVID-19 vaccine

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Local medical experts who spend their careers researching viruses and vaccines say we should expect a small number of people to have allergic reactions to the vaccine, but only rarely.

"We believe that it is safe for the general public," Dr. Jason Diaz, a virologist at La Salle University said of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

Many people are concerned after reports of two people in the United Kingdom having adverse allergic reactions to the drug.

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U.K. regulators said people who have a "significant history'' of allergic reactions shouldn't receive the new Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

UK regulators say those two individuals have a history of severe allergic reactions, but it is now recommended for others with similar histories to not take the vaccine.

"It's not necessarily surprising that we have some events of people that are having an adverse allergic reaction. Pretty much, every vaccine that we have out there, there's always a very small number of people that have an allergic reaction to it." Diaz said. "For each vaccine we need to then figure out what people are reacting to in the vaccine."

Diaz said the vaccine has been vetted by the FDA and an outside panel of experts not associated with the government.

"We don't usually vaccinate thousands of thousands of people within a couple of days. Because we're doing that, we're actually seeing these very rare events within a shorter timeframe. That has the perception of being, 'oh, there's something wrong with it,' but really, it's about the numbers," Diaz said.

Diaz then took a couple viewer questions.

Question 1:

"I have a unique situation. I have Guillian-Barre Syndrome and am not able to get a flu vaccination. I am not sure if I should or even can get the COVID vaccine."

Dr. Diaz responded, "Guillian-Barre Syndrome is a known syndrome where we know that these individuals more often than not should not get vaccinated."

Question 2:

"I was wondering if people who have a history of allergic reactions, especially allergic to eggs, can receive the COVID vaccine?

Dr. Diaz replied, "Currently influenza vaccines in the United States are made using eggs and that's why for influenza vaccinations we ask folks if they have a specific allergy to eggs. The current COVID vaccines, none of them are produced using eggs."

Diaz also says you should always tell a medical professional about any allergic reactions before getting a vaccine.

He said vaccines are administered in medical environments, which allow for immediate treatment if needed.

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