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UK probes possible allergic reactions to COVID-19 shot after 2 adverse responses

Medical official warns those with significant history of allergic reactions not to get Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine after first day of inoculation drive

A nurse prepares a shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Guy's Hospital in London, UK, December 8, 2020. (Frank Augstein/AP)
A nurse prepares a shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Guy's Hospital in London, UK, December 8, 2020. (Frank Augstein/AP)

LONDON — UK regulators said Wednesday that people who have a “significant history” of allergic reactions shouldn’t receive the new Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine while they investigate two adverse reactions that occurred on the first day of the country’s mass vaccination program.

Professor Stephen Powis, national medical director for the National Health Service in England, said health authorities were acting on a recommendation from the Medical and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency.

“As is common with new vaccines the MHRA have advised on a precautionary basis that people with a significant history of allergic reactions do not receive this vaccination after two people with a history of significant allergic reactions responded adversely yesterday,” Powis said in a statement. “Both are recovering well.”

The comments came as Dr. June Raine, head of the MHRA, told a Parliamentary committee that regulators had received reports of two allergic reactions from the vaccine.

“We know from the very extensive clinical trials that this wasn’t a feature,” she said. “But if we need to strengthen our advice, now that we have had this experience with the vulnerable populations, the groups who have been selected as a priority, we get that advice to the field immediately.”

Raine’s comments came as part of a general discussion of how her agency will continue to monitor people who receive the vaccine authorized for emergency use last week.

The DHL freight plane transporting for the first batch of Pfizer covid-19 vaccine lands at Ben Gurion International Airport, December 9, 2020 (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)

The development came as Israel took delivery of its first batch out of an order for millions of the same Pfizer vaccine for its own mass vaccination program.

A plane landed from Brussels carrying a cargo of between 3,000 and 4,000 doses of the vaccine in an initial delivery, with hundreds of thousands more set to arrive on Thursday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a speech at Ben Gurion Airport, said that he would be the first person in Israel to receive the coronavirus vaccine as part of a campaign to encourage inoculation.

“What’s important to me is that people of Israel get vaccinated. I believe in this vaccine. I want the people of Israel to get vaccinated and so I will be first,” Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu announced last month that Israel had signed a deal with Pfizer to purchase eight million doses of the vaccine, enough to inoculate four million Israelis. Last week, it was reported that Israel was set to receive up to four million doses by the end of this month.

The first vaccine shipments are arriving as Israel is dealing with ballooning infections, and are unlikely to affect overall policy on the pandemic in the short term.

The US Food and Drug Administration will review Pfizer’s trial data later this week. If it approves the vaccine for use, Israeli officials are expected to give it their okay.

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