Two NHS staff members who received the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine on the first day of Britain’s mass vaccination programme yesterday suffered an allergic reaction, NHS England has confirmed.
UK regulators have now issued a warning that people who have a history of “significant” allergic reactions should not currently receive the Pfizer vaccine.
This applies to people with a history of anaphylaxis or who have been advised to carry a adrenaline autoinjector.
From now on, vaccination should only be carried out in places with resuscitation facilities, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has said.
Both members of staff who suffered allergic reactions are understood to be recovering and all trusts involved with the vaccination programme have been informed.
Professor Stephen Powis, national medical director for the NHS in England, said: “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.”
Dr June Raine, chief executive of the MHRA, told the Commons Science and Technology Committee this morning: “The role [of the MHRA’s assessment] is before, during, and after, and there is a true end to end, looking from the scientific laboratory bench through to the patient who yesterday, first received the vaccine.
“And as an illustration to this, I may share with the committee that even last evening we were looking at two case reports of allergic reactions. We know from the very extensive clinical trials that this wasn’t a feature. But if we need to strengthen our advice…. we get that advice to the field immediately.”
Raine added that “real-time vigilance” would continue even now the vaccine has been deployed.
It comes after 90-year-old Margaret Keenan yesterday became the first person in the world to receive a coronavirus vaccine outside of a trial, marking the start of Britain’s largest vaccination programme in history.
Around 800,000 doses are expected to be available in the UK by the end of the week, with care home residents and carers, the over-80s and some health service workers at the front of the queue.
In total, Britain has ordered 40m doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine — enough to vaccinate 20m people in a country of 67m.
Health officials will turn to other vaccines on the horizon to complete the UK’s vaccination programme, including the Astrazeneca/University of Oxford vaccine, of which the government has ordered 100m doses, and the Moderna vaccine, which the UK is set to receive 7m doses of.