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Are There Medical Exemptions From the COVID-19 Vaccine? Yes, But They’re Rare

You Might Be Keeping Yourself From Getting Vaccinated Unnecessarily.

Medical exemptions to the COVID-19 vaccines have been a hot-button topic for months and right now in Alberta. 

While plenty of people may claim they have a medical exemption from getting vaccinated, legitimate medical exemptions are "very uncommon," and lack of information is just adding to the confusion.

What conditions could cause someone to be medically exempted from the COVID-19 vaccine? The classification is pretty narrow. Here's a breakdown.

It mostly boils down to allergies and allergic reactions. A medical exemption is due to a patient having a contraindication to the vaccine, meaning getting it could be bad for their health.

The easy one, if the patient has a KNOWN history of a severe allergic reaction to any component or ingredient of the vaccine, they should not receive it.  If your third cousin had a severe allergic reaction to "a" vaccine ten years ago, this does not exempt you from receiving a COVID Vaccine.  If you are a twin, it is not a given that you will have the same adverse reaction to a vaccine as your sibling.

For a detailed list of ingredients of COVID-19 vaccines authorized by Health Canada:

https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/awareness-resources/components-covid-19-vaccines.html

Note that both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines do NOT contain eggs, preservatives or latex.

Some people may find the names of the ingredients daunting and confusing, yet we still drink pop, eat hot dogs and other processed foods with a much longer list of equally tongue-tying constituents and additives.  Those that smoke, have a look at a detailed listing of what goes into your cigarettes then lungs and blood stream.

Fortunately, because the list of ingredients is different between the various vaccines, there are alternatives to consider if there is an allergy to something in one vaccine.  Getting vaccinated is still essential.

To date, the number of people who have had anaphylactic reactions to COVID-19 vaccines is minimal—data shows it's about two to five cases per million doses (or 0.000002% - 0.000005%).  For comparison, the percentage of the population that is affected by a peanut allergy is 1.3%. Individuals who have a confirmed anaphylactic allergy to an ingredient in a COVID-19 vaccine should be referred to an allergist for advice before receiving the first dose. And those who experience an anaphylactic allergic reaction to their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine should be directed to an allergist before receiving their second.

Another situation for a medical exemption is if someone developed a severe health issue soon after their first dose of an mRNA vaccine.

After their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, individuals diagnosed with myocarditis or pericarditis should not get a second dose.  Those with prior myocarditis or pericarditis diagnoses should speak to their physician to assess the appropriateness of the mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna) versus the viral vector vaccine (AstraZeneca or J&J).

Now, let's put myocarditis into perspective: Myocarditis was not seen in the early clinical trials of mRNA vaccines, likely due to the limited pool size of of people in the clinical trials.  Once millions and millions of doses were administered, we began seeing an association between the vaccines given and an increased rate of myocarditis.  Now we have much more real-world data from the 3.56 BILLION people that have received at least one dose of vaccine world wide. A recent publication in the New England Journal of Medicine looked at the rate of myocarditis after receiving an mRNA vaccine and the risk of developing myocarditis after contracting COVID.  We know that if someone has a natural infection with COVID, there is a risk of developing myocarditis and pericarditis. NEJM published that the risk of developing myocarditis from a natural COVID infection is 3.5 times higher than from following an mRNA vaccine.

The University of Waterloo School of Pharmacy has put together a fantastic document that summarizes the valid reasons one may get a medical exemption from the COVID-19 vaccine in addition to scenarios that are not valid medical exemptions such as pregnancy, fertility concerns, breastfeeding and previous infection with COVID-19 and more.

To see the full document follow the link below and share this valuable information:

https://uwaterloo.ca/pharmacy/sites/ca.pharmacy/files/uploads/files/covid-19_vaccine_medical_exemptions.pdf

Our locations offer a professional, calm and inviting environment to receive this and any other vaccine.   For the COVID-19 vaccine, contact one of the three locations offering this service: Pfizer: Cedar Park and West Block locations, Moderna: First Edmonton Place location.

Talk to one of our pharmacists today if you have questions.


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