Anaphylaxis is a rare reaction in COVID-19 vaccination

Authors: R G Bellomo 1C E Gallenga 2Al Caraffa 3G Tetè 4G Ronconi 5P Conti 6


Anaphylaxis is a severe multisystem reaction that occurs rapidly after the introduction of an antigen that would otherwise be a harmless substance. It is characterized by airway and respiratory problems, cardiovascular collapse, mucosal inflammation, and other complications, all severe symptoms that can cause death. IgE-dependent anaphylaxis involves mast cells (MCs) which are the main sources of biologically active mediators that contribute to the pathological and lethal phenomena that can occur in anaphylaxis. Antibody-mediated anaphylaxis can follow multiple pathways such as that mediated by MCs carrying the FcεRI receptor, which can be activated by very small amounts of antigen including a vaccine antigen and trigger an anaphylactic reaction. In addition, anaphylaxis can also be provoked by high concentrations of IgG antibodies that bind to the FcγR receptor present on basophils, neutrophils, macrophages and MCs. For this reason, the IgG concentration should be kept under control in vaccinations. Activation of MCs is a major cause of anaphylaxis, which requires immediate treatment with epinephrine to arrest severe lethal symptoms. MCs are activated through the antigen binding and cross-linking of IgE with release of mediators such as histamine, proteases, prostaglandins, leukotrienes and inflammatory cytokines. The release of these compounds causes nausea, vomiting, hives, wheezing, flushing, tachycardia, hypotension, laryngeal edema, and cardiovascular collapse. mRNA and viral vector vaccines have been cleared by the United States, Food and Drug Administration (FDA), generating hope of prevention and cure for COVID-19 around the world. Scientists advise against giving the vaccine to individuals who have had a previous history of anaphylaxis. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises people with a previous history of any immediate allergic reaction to remain under observation for approximately 30 minutes after COVID-19 vaccination. To date, vaccines that prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection have not raised major concerns of severe allergic reactions, although, in some cases, pain and redness at the injection site and fever have occurred after administration of the vaccine. These reactions occur in the first 24-48 hours after vaccination. It has been reported that probable forms of anaphylaxis could also occur, especially in women approximately 40 years of age. But after tens of millions of vaccinations, only a few patients had this severe reaction with a low incidence. Anaphylactic and severe allergic reactions can also occur to any component of the vaccine including polysorbates and polyethylene glycol. To date, there is no precise information on allergic reactions to COVID-19 vaccines. Individuals with MCs and complement with higher activation than others may be at greater allergic risk. Moreover, the reactions called anaphylactoids, are those not mediated by IgE because they do not involve this antibody and can also occur in COVID-19 vaccination. These not-IgE-mediated reactions occur through direct activation of MCs and complement with tryptase production, but to a lesser extent than IgE-mediated anaphylaxis. However, at the moment it is not known exactly which component of the vaccine causes the allergic reaction and which vaccine causes the most side effects, including anaphylaxis. Thus, individuals who have a known allergy to any component of the vaccine should not be vaccinated. However, should an anaphylactic reaction occur, this requires immediate treatment with epinephrine to arrest severe lethal symptoms. In conclusion, the purpose of this editorial is to encourage the population to be vaccinated in order to extinguish this global pandemic that is afflicting the world population, and to reassure individuals that anaphylactic reactions do not occur with a higher incidence than other vaccinations.

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