Viewpoint: Why you shouldn’t be worried about potential reactions to COVID vaccines

Credit: Joseph Prezioso/AFP/Getty Images
Credit: Joseph Prezioso/AFP/Getty Images

Anaphylaxis — a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction — is nothing to be ignored. It’s most commonly associated with allergies to foods, like peanuts, or bee stings, and it’s the reason many people carry EpiPens. Often, immediate administration of epinephrine is the only thing that can prevent death.

Even so, an average of around 60 people die each year from hornet, wasp and bee stings and three times as many die from food allergies. When the C.D.C. updated its guidance, at least six out of hundreds of thousands of [COVID vaccine] recipients had experienced a severe allergic reaction, but all of them recovered with treatment.

The news media has covered these reactions, and it’s understandable that the public would be concerned about the dangers of new medications.

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[However,] about one in 10 Americans have reported an allergic reaction to penicillins. About one in 100, perhaps, have a true allergy to that class of drugs (I’m one of them). Between one in 2,500 and one in 5,000 experience anaphylaxis. But pediatricians like me dispense penicillin all the time, with minimal concerns. We do so because most allergic reactions are minor and serious ones can be managed, and because we believe that the benefits outweigh the harms.

Every potential bad outcome of a Covid vaccine should be weighed against the chance of getting sick or dying from the disease.

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