Contraindications and precautions to COVID-19 vaccines are described below and summarized in Appendix B. For the purposes of this guidance, an immediate allergic reaction to a vaccine or medication is defined as any hypersensitivity-related signs or symptoms such as urticaria, angioedema, respiratory distress (e.g., wheezing, stridor), or anaphylaxis that occur within four hours following administration.
Healthcare professionals or health departments in the United States can request a consultation from the Clinical Immunization Safety Assessment COVIDvax project about an individual patient residing in the United States for a complex COVID-19 vaccine safety question not readily addressed by CDC guidance.
CDC considers a history of the following to be a contraindication to vaccination with COVID-19 vaccines:
Severe allergic reaction (e.g., anaphylaxis) after a previous dose or to a component of the COVID-19 vaccine
Immediate allergic reaction of any severity to a previous dose or known (diagnosed) allergy to a component of the vaccine
See Appendix C for a list of ingredients in COVID-19 vaccines. Polyethylene glycol (PEG) is an ingredient in both mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, and polysorbate 80 is an ingredient in Janssen COVID-19 vaccine. PEG and polysorbate are structurally related, and cross-reactive hypersensitivity between these compounds may occur. People with a contraindication to one of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines should not receive doses of either of the mRNA vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna). However, people with a contraindication to mRNA COVID-19 vaccines may be able to receive Janssen COVID-19 vaccine, and vice versa, provided certain measures are taken (see “precautions” below). Known polysorbate allergy is no longer a contraindication to mRNA vaccination; however, known polysorbate allergy is a contraindication to Janssen COVID-19 vaccine and thus, a precaution to mRNA COVID-19 vaccination.
Healthcare professionals should attempt to determine whether reactions reported following vaccination are consistent with immediate allergic reactions versus other types of reactions commonly observed following vaccination, such as a vasovagal reaction or post-vaccination side effects (Appendix D). This will help determine which patients have a contraindication to vaccination, including to the second dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.
Most people deemed to have a precaution to a COVID-19 vaccine at the time of their vaccination appointment can and should be administered vaccine. CDC considers a history of an immediate allergic reaction to any other vaccine or injectable therapy (i.e., intramuscular, intravenous, or subcutaneous vaccines or therapies [excluding subcutaneous immunotherapy for allergies, i.e., “allergy shots”]) as a precaution but not a contraindication to vaccination. People with a history of an immediate allergic reaction to a vaccine or injectable therapy that contains multiple components, one or more of which is a component of a COVID-19 vaccine, have a precaution to vaccination with that COVID-19 vaccine, even if it is unknown which component elicited the allergic reaction.
People with a contraindication to one type of the currently authorized COVID-19 vaccines (e.g., mRNA) have a precaution to the other (e.g., Janssen viral vector). However, because of potential cross-reactive hypersensitivity between ingredients in mRNA and Janssen COVID-19 vaccines, consultation with an allergist-immunologist should be considered to help determine if the patient can safely receive vaccination. Healthcare professionals and health departments may also request a consultation from the Clinical Immunization Safety Assessment COVIDvax project. Vaccination of these individuals should only be undertaken in an appropriate setting under the supervision of a healthcare professional experienced in the management of severe allergic reactions.
People with a contraindication to mRNA COVID-19 vaccines (including due to a known PEG allergy): Consideration may be given to vaccination with Janssen COVID-19 vaccine. People who have received one mRNA COVID-19 vaccine dose but for whom the second dose is contraindicated should wait at least 28 days after the mRNA vaccine dose to receive Janssen COVID-19 vaccine.
People with a contraindication to Janssen COVID-19 vaccine (including due to a known polysorbate allergy): Consideration may be given to mRNA COVID-19 vaccination. Of note, polysorbate allergy is no longer a contraindication to mRNA COVID-19 vaccination, it is a precaution.
The following considerations can be used to help the vaccination provider conduct a risk assessment for vaccination in individuals with a precaution to vaccination:
Risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2 (e.g., because of residence in a congregate setting such as a long-term care facility, occupation)
Risk of severe disease or death due to COVID-19 (e.g., because of age, underlying medical conditions)
The unknown risk of anaphylaxis (including fatal anaphylaxis) following COVID-19 vaccination in a person with a history of an immediate allergic reaction to other vaccines or injectable therapies
Ability of the patient to be vaccinated in a setting where appropriate medical care is immediately available for anaphylaxis. Note, for people with a contraindication to another type of COVID-19 vaccines (e.g., mRNA vaccines), vaccination with another type (e.g., Janssen viral vector vaccine) should only be undertaken in an appropriate setting under the supervision of a healthcare professional experienced in the management of severe allergic reactions.
Neither contraindications nor precautions to COVID-19 vaccination
Allergic reactions (including severe allergic reactions) not related to vaccines (COVID-19 or other vaccines) or injectable therapies, such as allergic reactions related to food, pet, venom, or environmental allergies, or allergies to oral medications (including the oral equivalents of injectable medications), are not a contraindication or precaution to COVID-19 vaccination. The vial stoppers of COVID-19 vaccines are not made with natural rubber latex, and there is no contraindication or precaution to vaccination for people with a latex allergy. In addition, because the COVID-19 vaccines do not contain eggs or gelatin, people with allergies to these substances do not have a contraindication or precaution to vaccination.
Delayed-onset local reactions have been reported after mRNA vaccination in some individuals beginning a few days through the second week after the first dose and are sometimes quite large. People with only a delayed-onset local reaction (e.g., erythema, induration, pruritus) around the injection site area after the first vaccine dose do not have a contraindication or precaution to the second dose. These individuals should receive the second dose using the same vaccine product as the first dose at the recommended interval, preferably in the opposite arm.
Observation periods following vaccination
CDC recommends the following observation periods after COVID-19 vaccination:
History of an immediate allergic reaction of any severity to a vaccine or injectable therapy
People with a contraindication to a different type of COVID-19 vaccine (for example, people with a contraindication to mRNA COVID-19 vaccines who receive Janssen viral vector vaccine should be observed for 30 minutes following Janssen vaccination).
History of anaphylaxis due to any cause
15 minutes: All other people
Management of anaphylaxis after COVID-19 vaccination
Appropriate medical treatment used to manage immediate allergic reactions must be immediately available in the event an acute anaphylactic reaction occurs following administration of COVID-19 vaccine. Further information on anaphylaxis management can be found in the interim considerations for the management of anaphylaxis following COVID-19 vaccination and laboratory evaluation of people who experience anaphylaxis after vaccination.