Doctor Who Is Allergic to COVID Vaccine Says People Need to Get Shots

A doctor in Boston who is thought to be the first person to have an allergic reaction to the Moderna COVID vaccine has said people need to get their shots, but that he hopes pharmaceutical companies will soon uncover the cause of such reactions.

Dr. Hossein Sadrzadeh, a geriatric oncologist at Boston Medical Center who has a severe allergy to shellfish, had the Moderna vaccine on Thursday. Shortly after his heart started racing, and his tongue and throat went numb, he told NBC10 Boston.

Sadrzadeh said his blood pressure dropped, which is a symptom of a severe allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis. The incident occurred in the first week that the Moderna COVID vaccine was rolled out in the U.S.

"I've had this before so I had my EpiPen [epinephrine] and I administered myself," he said. Epinephrine is a drug that works by constricting the blood vessels and relaxing the muscles, and is used to treat anaphylaxis from a range of triggers, including food, medicines, and insects.

Sadrzadeh said: "I think that people need to get vaccinated. At the same time, I really would like Moderna and also Pfizer to investigate this more to prevent things from happening."

He told The New York Times in an interview published Friday that his reaction to the vaccine was the same as what happens when he consumes shellfish.

David Kibbe, a spokesman for Boston Medical Center, confirmed to The New York Times that Dr. Sadrzadeh had Moderna's shot on Thursday, and was allowed to administer his personal EpiPen after developing an allergic reaction.

Kibbe said, "He was taken to the Emergency Department, evaluated, treated, observed and discharged. He is doing well today."

Such reactions are rare. According to the CDC, over 2 million people have been vaccinated against COVID. Around 11 cases of allergic reactions have so far been reported, the agency said according to medical news website Stat.

The National Institutes of Health is launching a study to uncover the cause, involving people who have a history of serious allergic reactions.

Polyethylene glycol, an ingredient commonly used in medicines, has emerged as a potential culprit. However Dr. Merin Kuruvilla, an allergist and immunologist at Emory University, told The New York Times it is possible another substance is the cause and further investigation is warranted.

Kuruvilla said allergic reactions are rare and should not worry the average person. "This should not deter people who are not obviously at increased risk," she said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says people with a history of severe allergic reactions not related to vaccines or injectable medications can still get vaccinated against COVID, as well as those with a history of allergies to oral medications or a family history of severe allergic reactions. Those who have had mild allergies to vaccines without anaphylaxis can also get vaccinated against the disease.

Individuals who have had a severe allergic reaction to ingredients in a COVID vaccine should not get that specific vaccine, according to the CDC. People who get vaccinated should be monitored for 15 minutes, or 30 minutes if they have a history of severe allergic reactions due to any cause.

A spokesperson for Pfizer told Newsweek: "We will closely monitor all reports suggestive of serious allergic reactions following vaccination and update labeling language if needed. The prescribing information has a clear warning/precaution that appropriate medical treatment and supervision should always be readily available in case of a rare anaphylactic event following the administration of the vaccine."

This article has been updated with comment from Pfizer.

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A bottle of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is shown during a press conference on December 23, 2020 at Broward Health Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The center is unrelated to the case of a Boston doctor who had an allergic reaction after having the Moderna vaccine. Joe Raedle/Getty Images