According to a report by the Italian daily, Il Corriere della Sera, there are compounds present in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and food that may cause the COVID vaccine allergic reaction in some people due to previous exposure. The substance behind the allergic reactions that some people developed after receiving Pfizer’s COVID vaccine may have been discovered. This would be the “polyethylene glycol” compound, also known as PEG.
Common compound in cosmetics
Although health authorities are still investigating, as the pharmaceutical company itself is doing, we know that PEG can be associated in a rare way with allergic reactions as confirmed by Peter Marks, Director of the Centre for Product Evaluation and Research, US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) biological products.
Those allergic reactions may be a little more common than the very rare ones that normally occur. The compound is found in shampoos, toothpastes, and countless other products. Some people may be more susceptible because they have high levels of antibodies to PEG. In both vaccines, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, PEG is part of the fatty envelope that surrounds messenger RNA, the main ingredient of the vaccine.
Once the mRNA enters the cells, it teaches them to create a protein that resembles the spike protein found on the surface of the coronavirus. This induces a specific immune response which strengthens the body’s defenses when it is exposed to the real virus. The fatty envelope containing PEG helps ensure that the mRNA crosses the cell membrane. PEG has never been used in an approved vaccine before, but it is found in many drugs. The studies in the coming weeks will be done on people who have high levels of anti-PEG antibodies or have experienced severe allergic responses to drugs or vaccines before.
Cases of allergic reaction
Anaphylactic reactions can occur with any vaccine but are usually extremely rare – around 1 per 1 million doses. As of December 19, 2020, however, the United States had seen 6 cases of anaphylaxis among 272,001 people who received the vaccine and the United Kingdom had 2 cases in the Phase 3 studies that led to the approval of the vaccines people were excluded from. With a history of allergies to vaccine components, a subgroup of individuals, therefore, may have been under-represented.
An increasing number of biopharmaceutical products include PEGs. According to a 2016 study conducted at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, 72% of people have at least some antibodies to PEGs, presumably due to exposure to cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. About 7% have a level that can be high enough to predispose them to anaphylactic reactions.
There are still no certainties but only assumptions: some scientists note that the amount of PEG in mRNA vaccines is lower than that contained in most drugs. Meanwhile, alternatives to PEG are being studied, but the vaccination campaign does not stop, also because the benefits outweigh the risks and all those affected by an allergic reaction have recovered.
Guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) USA recommend not to give Pfizer or Moderna vaccines to anyone with a history of a severe allergic reaction to any component of the vaccine. There is no reason why people who have a history of mild or severe allergic reactions to food, pets, oral medications, or environmental allergens should not receive the vaccine the CDC says. And people who may be at high risk of an anaphylactic reaction should remain at the vaccination site for 30 minutes after the injection (and not just the “canonical” 15).
COVID, the “English variant,” is in Lombardy: first two cases have been identified
The coronavirus variant has been identified by San Matteo of Pavia. The so-called “English variant” of the Sars-CoV-2 coronavirus, the virus responsible for COVID, has also been identified in Lombardy. The news is provided by the Policlinico San Matteo in Pavia.
The first two cases are 2 Italian citizens who landed in Malpensa in recent days – exactly on December 23 and 24. The 2 events, explains the hospital, “are independent of each other and are in no way related to an outbreak.”
The samples tested positive for the molecular swab were sent by the ATS Insubria to the IRCCS Policlinico San Matteo Foundation in Pavia where the team of Professor Fausto Baldanti carried out the sequencing.
The so-called “English variant” was identified in recent days in various Italian regions (in Lazio, Abruzzo, Campania, Veneto, Marche, and Puglia), and it is likely that it is already widespread in other areas as well of the national territory.
According to the studies currently available and the experts also interviewed by the Corriere della Sera, this variant has a diffusion capacity that could be higher (up to 70%). There is no evidence that it is more dangerous or lethal, nor that it can resist vaccines approved or in being approved against COVID.
It is not clear whether the variant originated in Great Britain, however, it is identified there and became dominant in the southeastern area of the country. Among the hypotheses of its origin, the European Centre for the Surveillance of Infectious Diseases cited the possibility that it had developed in an immunosuppressed patient who, infected, had the infection for a long time before recovering, favoring the accumulation of many small mutations.
Due to its spread, the British government launched particularly severe lockdown measures last weekend. The European Union in turn has taken measures to limit travel between Great Britain and EU countries to a minimum.
The 2 cases reported by Policlinico San Matteo were identified after the entry into force of these rules.
On December 26, 2020, Japan decided to close its borders to foreigners until January 31, 2021, after the identification of the new “English variant” in some passengers arriving from Great Britain.