Children aged five-11 can have a low-dose Covid-19 vaccine and all children five and upwards can have a second dose 12 weeks later.
NHS advice is that:
“Those with allergies, including prior anaphylaxis, to a food, insect sting or most medicines (where the trigger has been identified), can proceed with vaccination as normal…as long as they are not known to be allergic to any component of the vaccine.”
The British Society for Allergy and Clinical Immunology (BSACI) says children with allergies are not at higher risk of having an allergic reaction to the vaccine but adds:
“Where a child has a history of confirmed anaphylaxis to a vaccine or is allergic to any of the ingredients in the Pfizer vaccine (a list is available at vaccination centres), this should be discussed with their GP or allergy doctor as it might be appropriate for them to receive the vaccine in a supervised, hospital setting.”
All staff in all vaccine settings are trained to recognise reactions and there is the equipment and medicine on-site to treat them.
We asked retired nurse Rosie Booth, who is part of the Covid vaccination team in Oxford, to tell us more about the process:
“We ask everyone who comes in if they have any allergies, adult or child…but there is nothing food-related in this vaccine. It is safe to vaccinate anybody with food allergies.”
She also offered some advice for parents:
“It’s a good idea to prepare them prior to vaccination … I keep the needle out of view while I’m getting it ready, and they can choose a sticker while that happens… All the children are observed for 15 minutes. If a child has a history of serious anaphylaxis, then we recommend they go to a mass vaccination centre rather than a pop-up.”
Mum of two, Karina took her 8 and 6 year-olds, who have food allergies to get their vaccines recently, and says it was a stress-free experience:
“We arrived early with plenty of time before their appointments. We were given information to read to the kids about what was going to happen. We then went through to a private room where we spoke to the medic who was giving the vaccinations. We listed our son’s multiple food allergies including risk of anaphylaxis, asthma and allergic rhinitis. She confirmed that none of his allergens were in the vaccination, and he would not be at a higher risk of having an allergic reaction to the vaccination. Afterwards, we were asked to wait 15 minutes and monitor our children. I brought a cereal bar and a drink for the kids while they waited.”
Karina took her children to a pharmacy for their vaccines and added that it was a great set-up – “I thought I would have preferred somewhere more formal but actually it worked really well.”
Lots of food allergic children will have had blood tests before. Karina prepared her children for the jab by explaining to them that it would be like a blood test but quicker and that they would feel a sharp prick for just a second – rather than telling them it wouldn’t hurt at all. Her youngest was more nervous so she played a video on her phone as a distraction.
Written by: The Allergy Team, May 2022
Dr Deb Marriage, Consultant Nurse in food allergy, Bristol Children’s Hospital
All information provided by The Allergy Team Ltd is general information only. Please contact your GP or other qualified healthcare professionals for specific advice.