In this MD Newsline exclusive interview with allergist and immunologist Dr. Sakina Bajowala, we discuss how the COVID-19 vaccine has impacted people with asthma and allergies. We also discuss allergic reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine.
How has the COVID-19 vaccine impacted your patients with asthma and allergies?
Dr. Sakina Bajowala:
“I’ve encouraged all of my eligible patients to get vaccinated against COVID-19. There was initially a great deal of hesitation and concern about vaccination in the allergy community, given those early reports of allergic reactions to the mRNA vaccines. However, what we’ve learned is that the vast majority of patients with allergies and asthma are able to get vaccinated without any unusual side effects at all.
Vaccination has given my patients—especially those with a history of immune deficiency, immune dysregulation, or severe persistent asthma—a great sense of relief and has allowed them to meet with friends, families, and return to work and school, which is so important, especially for communities of color to be able to keep the income coming in. Additionally, it’s lifted the burden of isolation for them.
And it’s also enabled us in the office to feel more comfortable performing the really valuable pulmonary function testing that we need to do to readily monitor asthma control in our patients with severe asthma.”
What should other healthcare providers know about allergic reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine?
Dr. Sakina Bajowala:
“Reactions to the COVID-19 vaccines may be more likely in individuals who have a history of allergy or hypersensitivity to certain components of the vaccine, including polyethylene glycol, or polysorbate, which are used to stabilize the vaccine.
For patients who have a known or suspected allergy to these ingredients, or if they have a personal history of a severe reaction to another vaccine or injectable medication, it’s recommended that they have a consultation with an allergist prior to COVID-19 vaccination.
For patients with a history of a severe allergic reaction to other things such as oral medications, foods, latex, or insect stings, no special consultation with an allergist prior to vaccination is required, but it is recommended that they be observed for 30 minutes after vaccination, rather than the standard 15 minutes. For patients without any history of severe allergic reactions, no special precautions are necessary.”
Responses have been condensed and lightly edited.