I have mild to severe allergies - is the COVID-19 vaccine safe? What if I have allergies to antibiotics or other medicines?

Question: 

I have mild to severe allergies - is the COVID-19 vaccine safe? What if I have allergies to antibiotics or other medicines?

Answer: 

There is a lot of misinformation out there that anyone with any allergies whatsoever should not get the vaccine. This is not the case. Nearly everyone will be able to safely receive the vaccine, although a very small number of people may need to avoid vaccination due to severe allergies to parts of the vaccine. While the vaccine manufacturers identify a number of precautions because these populations were not included in the original vaccine trials, in the context of ongoing risk of COVID-19, most individuals can be offered vaccination.

Look at the ingredient lists and see if you are allergic to any of the COVID-19 vaccine ingredients. Most importantly, make sure that your healthcare provider knows about all of your allergies before you get any vaccine.

There are very few reasons someone should not get the COVID-19 vaccine. You should not get the vaccine if you:

  • Have serious allergies to any of the ingredients in the vaccines. An ingredient in the mRNA vaccines that has been associated with a rare but serious allergy (anaphylaxis) is polyethylene glycol (PEG). PEG can be found in some cosmetics, skincare products, laxatives, some processed foods and drinks and other products. Note: PEG is not in the AstraZeneca vaccine and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. 
  • An ingredient in the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines that has been associated with a rare but serious allergy is Polysorbate 80 – It is also found in medical preparations (e.g., vitamin oils, tablets and anticancer agents) and cosmetics.
  • Have had a life-threatening reaction to a previous dose of the COVID-19 vaccine or to any part of the vaccine.
  • Talk to your health care provider if you have had an anaphylactic reaction but do not know the cause.

Serious, life-threatening allergic reactions to vaccines (anaphylaxis) are extremely rare - much rarer than people think. Anaphylaxis is preventable in many cases and treatable in all cases. All immunizing healthcare providers in BC are required to be trained and actively watch for and treat anaphylaxis immediately. For those with allergies, your healthcare provider may ask you to wait for a longer period of time (for example, 30 minutes). Rarely, based on the recommendations of an allergist and Medical Health Officer, a person may receive a vaccine in a hospital setting.

Date last reviewed: 
Friday, Jul 30, 2021