COVID-19 vaccine safety: What should you be asking your doctor?

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SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH (ABC4 News) – With the race to vaccinate as many people as possible against COVID-19, what should you be asking your doctor when it comes to safety precautions with the vaccine?

“That all depends on previous reactions to vaccines, and previous reactions to other medications,” says Hannah Imlay, MD, an Assistant Professor of Infectious Disease at the University of Utah. “Patients who’ve had reactions to vaccines, or who have had severe allergic reactions typically anaphylaxis is kind of the one that we think of number one.”

Anaphylaxis is a severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction that happens within minutes of exposure to an allergen.

When it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine, Imlay says data is still being accrued on allergic reactions.

However, “the most recent estimate I had seen was 29 severe allergic reactions out of about 9 million courses of vaccine given.”

The news comes as the Centers for Disease control investigates the case of Gregory Michael, MD of Miami-Dade County.

According to a Facebook post made on January 5th, Michael’s wife, Heidi Neckelmann, says he “was vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine at Mount Sinai Medical Center on December 18th.”

Neckelmann then writes that two weeks later, he passed away after suffering a strong reaction to the vaccine that ultimately led to him dying from a stroke. According to his wife, Michael’s symptoms included spots on his hands and feet in which he went to the emergency room to get checked out.

Imlay isn’t involved with the investigation into Michael’s case, but says in general people suffering allergic reactions to vaccines have symptoms that often include hives, flushing, swelling of the airways and itching.

“The swelling of the airways and kind of lower blood pressure is what can be life-threatening in these cases,”she says. “Anaphylaxis or other immediate allergic reactions meaning allergic reactions that occur in the next 15 minutes are so are uncommon.”

Despite the potential risks, Imlay says when it comes to the vaccine, she believes the benefits outweigh the risks.

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