CDC COVID-19 Response Team; Food and Drug Administration
As of January 3, 2021, a total of 20,346,372 cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and 349,246 associ- ated deaths have been reported in the United States. Long- term sequalae of COVID-19 over the course of a lifetime currently are unknown; however, persistent symptoms and serious complications are being reported among COVID-19 survivors, including persons who initially experience a mild acute illness.* On December 11, 2020, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to prevent COVID-19, administered as 2 doses separated by 21 days. On December 12, 2020, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) issued an interim recommendation for use of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine (1); initial doses were recommended for health care personnel and long-term care facility residents (2). As of December 23, 2020, a reported 1,893,360 first doses of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine had been administered in the United States, and reports of 4,393 (0.2%) adverse events after receipt of Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine had been submitted to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). Among these, 175 case reports were identified for further review as possible cases of severe allergic reaction, including anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening allergic reaction that does occur rarely after vaccination, with onset typically within minutes to hours (3). Twenty-one cases were determined to be anaphylaxis (a rate of 11.1 per million doses administered), including 17 in persons with a documented history of allergies or allergic reactions, seven of whom had a history of anaphylaxis. The median interval from vaccine receipt to symptom onset was 13 minutes (range = 2–150 minutes). Among 20 persons with follow-up information available, all had recovered or been discharged home. Of the remaining case reports that were determined not to be anaphylaxis, 86 were judged to be nonanaphylaxis allergic reactions, and 61 were considered nonallergic adverse events. Seven case reports were still under investigation. This report summarizes the clinical and epide- miologic characteristics of case reports of allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis and nonanaphylaxis allergic reactions, after receipt of the first dose of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine during December 14–23, 2020, in the United States. CDC has issued updated interim clinical considerations for use of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines currently authorized in the United States (4) and interim considerations for preparing for the potential management of anaphylaxis (5). In addition to screening for contraindications and precautions before admin- istering COVID-19 vaccines, vaccine locations should have the necessary supplies available to manage anaphylaxis, should implement postvaccination observation periods, and should immediately treat persons experiencing anaphylaxis signs and symptoms with intramuscular injection of epinephrine (4,5). CDC and FDA received notification of suspected anaphylaxis cases through multiple channels, including direct outreach by health care providers and public health officials and reports to VAERS, the national passive surveillance (spontaneous report- ing) system for adverse events after immunization, which is jointly operated by CDC and FDA (6). All notifications of suspected anaphylaxis that came to the attention of CDC or FDA were also captured in VAERS. CDC physicians screened VAERS reports describing suspected severe allergic reactions and anaphylaxis and applied Brighton Collaboration case definition criteria (7), which use combinations of symptoms to define levels of diagnostic certainty to identify cases with suf- ficient evidence to warrant further assessment for anaphylaxis.
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