ATLANTA (KNWA/KFTA) — Nationally, there have been 21 cases of severe allergic reactions, also known as anaphylaxis, after getting the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control CDC.

The CDC’s study was from nearly 1.9 million people who received the first shot between December 14 – 23, 2020.

As of January 5, 4.8 million people have been vaccinated with the first dose, per the CDC.

No one has died who developed anaphylaxis, according to the CDC. Of the 21 people, 71% had an adverse reaction within 15 minutes of getting vaccinated.

An allergic reaction is considered severe if a person needs to be treated with epinephrine (EpiPen©) or must be hospitalized.

CDC epidemiologist Dr. Thomas Clark said 19 patients used epinephrine.

Dr. Clark said they continue to gather data for both vaccines. As of Wednesday, January 6, a total of 29 cases have been reported. Data is still being collected and the CDC plans to release the information next week on its website.

People who have severe allergies should let their vaccinator know before getting a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the (CDC), one reason is to make sure epinephrine is on hand. “We want to be sure that any site administering vaccines is prepared to treat someone who has an adverse reaction,” said CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD) Director Dr. Nancy Messonnier.

“Anyone who has an allergic reaction to the first dose should not get the second dose. And, people who have allergies should be observed for 30 minutes [after getting vaccinated, versus 15 minutes],” said Dr. Messonnier who emphasized the vaccine is safe.

CDC states:

  • COVID-19 vaccine: 11.1 people, per 1 million doses administered, have a reaction
  • Influenza vaccine: 1.3 people, per 1 million doses administered, have a reaction

“While it’s 10 times the amount [of deaths], it is still exceedingly rare [for a reaction]. We hope for zero reactions,” said Dr. Messonnier. “We’re seeing 2,000 COVID-19 deaths per day … it’s still a good value for someone to get vaccinated.”

Anaphylaxis signs and symptoms include:

  • Skin reactions, including hives and itching and flushed or pale skin.
  • Low blood pressure (hypotension)
  • Constriction of your airways and a swollen tongue or throat, which can cause wheezing and trouble breathing.
  • A weak and rapid pulse.
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
  • Dizziness or fainting. 

No one in Arkansas has had a serious reaction, according to the Arkansas Department of Health, in an email response sent on Friday, January 8.


The CDC is wanting to dispel myths, or misinformation, about the vaccine. Dr. Messonnier said it’s important for healthcare workers to have the right information. “We want them to protect themselves and educate patients. They need to know the vaccine works and can help us with this pandemic,” she said.

A Kaiser Family Foundation survey from December found 27% of the public is hesitant to get vaccinated, however 29% of healthcare workers were “vaccine hesitant.”