Can People With Peanut Allergies Get the COVID Vaccine?

The Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is now being rolled out across the United States as part of the largest vaccination campaign in American history. But can people with allergies to food—such as peanuts—get the shot?

According to guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC,) people who have a history of food, pet insect, venom, environmental, latex or oral medication allergies can receive the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

The CDC recommend that vaccine providers should observe people with a history of anaphylaxis—a severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction—due to any cause for 30 minutes after the individual receives the shot. Everyone else should be observed for 15 minutes.

"If you have a severe allergic response—for instance people have peanut allergies or egg allergies or food allergies—you can still get this vaccine, you just need to wait for 30 minutes in the area where you got the vaccine so if you do have an allergic reaction someone would be able to give you a shot of epinephrine to reduce it," Dr. Paul Offit, who sat on the FDA advisory board that approved the vaccine, told reporters during a a Poynter Institute webinar on Monday.

"And then we for everybody else, we make a recommendation we always make with vaccines, which is that whenever you get a vaccine, you should hang around for about 15 minutes to make sure you didn't have a severe allergic reaction because one out of every million doses roughly of vaccines is complicated by severe allergic reaction," Offit said.

When it comes to allergies, the only people who shouldn't get the vaccine are those who have a history of severe reactions to any component of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, according to the CDC. These ingredients are listed below:

  • mRNA
  • lipids or fats: ((4-hydroxybutyl)azanediyl)bis(hexane-6,1-diyl)bis(2- hexyldecanoate), 2-[(polyethylene glycol)-2000]-N,N-ditetradecylacetamide, 1,2-distearoyl-snglycero-3-phosphocholine, and cholesterol)
  • potassium chloride
  • monobasic potassium phosphate
  • sodium chloride
  • dibasic sodium phosphate dihydrate
  • sucrose

The American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology has said that the vaccine should not be administered to anyone with a known history of severe allergic reaction one of the components called polyethylene glycol or PEG in particular. This substance has previously been documented as a a cause of anaphylaxis by scientists, although these reactions are rare.

The CDC says that individuals who have a history of severe allergic reaction to any vaccine or injectable therapy can still get the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine but they should take extra precautions.

The agency recommends that such individuals should undergo a risk assessment and discuss the potential harms of taking the vaccine with their doctors.

Those with a history of only mild allergic reactions to vaccines or injectable therapies can take the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine without these extra precautions, according to the CDC.

Bowl of peanuts
Stock image showing a bowl of peanuts. People with food allergies can still receive the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. iStock