We know that the great majority of people, even those with severe allergies, have tolerated the COVID vaccine. People with allergies to environmental allergens (such as pollen), foods, latex, oral medications and stinging insects can receive the COVID vaccine. The vaccine does not contain egg, gelatin or latex.
CDC recommends not to receive a COVID vaccine if you had a severe or immediate allergic reaction to any of the ingredients in the vaccine or anaphylaxis (a severe allergic reaction) to the first dose of an mRNA vaccine. If you have a history of an immediate allergic reaction to polyethylene glycol (also known as PEG), or to polysorbate, you should not receive the vaccine.
If you have questions about if you should receive the vaccine, please talk to your health care provider.
Polyethylene glycol (PEG) is a common ingredient in a wide variety of vaccines and FDA-approved medications. It is found in the colonoscopy preparation, Golytely, in the constipation treatment, MiraLax, as well as in IV medications such as PEGylated medications. It is also in a steroid injection, Depo Medrol (methylprednisolone acetate). Reactions to PEG are rare, but anaphylaxis has been reported. Polysorbate is not an ingredient in either of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna), but it is closely related to PEG. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine contains polysorbate.
According to CDC guidelines, you may not be eligible to get the mRNA vaccine (or a second dose of the vaccine) if you have experienced any of the following allergic reactions.
- Severe allergic reaction (e.g., anaphylaxis) after a previous dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine or any of its components
- Immediate allergic reaction of any severity to a previous dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine or any of its components
- Immediate allergic reaction of any severity to polysorbate
- A history of an allergic reaction to an injectable medication
If you have experienced any of these reactions, please talk to your health care provider before getting a first or second dose of the vaccine.
If you decide to get the vaccine at a Penn Medicine vaccination site, you will be asked some questions about your allergy history before the vaccination. If you have had anaphylaxis (a severe allergic reaction) due to any cause, the vaccination team will decide if you need longer monitoring, or if you need to see your primary provider or allergy doctor before vaccination particularly if you report a history of an allergy to an injectable medication.
There are safeguards in place at Penn Medicine in case anyone experiences an allergic reaction to the vaccine. Everyone is monitored immediately after they receive the shot:
- At least 30 minutes for people who have a history of severe allergic reactions
- At least 15 minutes for all other individuals
We have a virtual urgent care service, called Penn Medicine OnDemand, which you can use as a resource at any time if you develop a reaction that concerns you.
If you received the COVID vaccine and developed a reaction within 4 hours of being vaccinated, you should call Penn Medicine OnDemand at 215-615-2222. Not all reactions are truly allergic reactions; a provider will first get information about your reaction and decide how to best manage it.
If you have severe symptoms with wheezing, throat tightness, nausea and hives, seek emergency care.
It is common to experience a reaction (or, side effect that is not considered allergic) to the vaccine. Side effects include fever, chills, muscle aches, headache and soreness at the injection site. These symptoms commonly begin happening at any time point after receiving the shot and typically last 2 to 3 days. If symptoms persist longer or you develop a high fever, please call Penn Medicine OnDemand.
It is common for people to have mild symptoms – such as tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever, nausea, and redness or soreness around the injection site – between 24 and 48 hours after receiving the Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine.
If you recently received the J&J vaccine, you will most likely not experience any serious, adverse effects. If you develop severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain or shortness of breath within three weeks of being vaccinated with the J&J vaccine, you should contact your doctor immediately or go to the nearest hospital emergency department. Make sure you tell the health care provider that you received the J&J vaccine.
Health care providers are asked to report adverse events to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System.