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Asthma and allergy experts say benefits of COVID-19 vaccines ‘far outweigh potential risks’

By PhilSTAR L!fe Published Feb 03, 2021 4:02 am

The benefits of the COVID-19 vaccines “far outweigh” potential risks.

This is according to the Philippine Society of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology (PSAAI), which released a position statement on the vaccines and their adverse reactions.

The PSAAI is a group of doctors who specialize in adult and pediatric allergy and immunology.

“Based on current data, the benefits of these vaccines to the general public far outweigh the potential risks of adverse reaction to COVID-19 vaccines, as well as to the risk of developing severe COVID-19 and death,” the group said in the statement.

The position statement said that adverse reactions to the vaccines may occur. However, majority of the possible adverse reactions are rare, including pain, swelling, and allergic reactions such as rashes. It added that the risk of severe allergic reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine is rare. Possible severe reactions include anaphylaxis—an allergic reaction to medication—which should be treated promptly with epinephrine.

The PSAAI also recommends that all healthcare professionals who will administer the COVID-19 should be trained to recognize and manage anaphylaxis in patients.

However, it said that patients who experience an immediate allergic reaction—whether mild or severe—to their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine should not receive their second dose.

In addition, those with a history of allergic reaction or anaphylaxis to certain vaccine excipients such as polyethylene glycol and polysorbate should not receive the vaccine.

People with allergic reactions to food, environmental allergens, and oral medications not related to vaccines, as well as patients with well-controlled asthma and allergic rhinitis, can take the vaccine.

Patients with immunodeficiency and autoimmune disease can receive the vaccine, although it should be noted that there is currently not enough data to determine the safety of the vaccine to people with those conditions.

All patients who have received the vaccine should be observed for at least 30 minutes after they received their COVID-19 jab, the position statement said.

Those with a history of immediate allergic reaction to any other vaccine will need further evaluation.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has been the biggest global health challenge the world has faced,” the PSAAI said in its statement. “COVID19 vaccination may provide protection and herd immunity which may be the solution to this global health problem.”

The position statement comes as Filipinos continue to worry about the efficacy and safety of COVID-19 vaccines, according to surveys. 

The results of a Pulse Asia survey released last month showed that only 32 percent of Filipinos will allow themselves to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Meanwhile, 47 percent said they would not get the jab, with the remaining 21 percent being undecided about the matter. A breakdown of the survey results revealed that the majority of those unwilling to be vaccinated come from Visayas at 55 percent, followed by Mindanao at 48 percent, and Luzon at 46 percent.

The survey had 2,400 respondents. It ran from Nov. 23 to Dec. 2, 2020, with a ±2% margin of error at 95 percent confidence level.

Social Weather Stations’ survey released last month showed that 47 percent of its respondents do not want to receive the vaccines even when they become available, while 32 percent of the respondents said they are willing to get the COVD-19 jab.

An University of Santo Tomas-CoVAX Vaccine Awareness Team released the results of its online survey on Tuesday, Feb. 2, which shows that only 56 Filipinos are willing to get the COVID-19 vaccine.The survey was conducted from Jan. 16 to 30 with over 15,600 respondents. The team was led by Fr. Nicanor Austriaco, a visiting professor of biological sciences.

The UST-CoVAX survey further shows that 92.7 percent of its respondents are worried about the vaccines’ effects, 91.7 percent are worried about their safety, and 90. 3 percent are worried about their efficacy.

However, given the open access and online-based methodology of the survey, the UST-CoVAX team said that they do not claim the result of their survey to be representative of the Filipino population as a whole.

Last month, the Department of Health said it is gearing for a massive information drive on the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines.