Study analyzes how COVID-19 vaccines impact highly allergic people

Vanderbilt Asthma, Sinus & Allergy Program
Posted at 4:59 PM, Jun 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-18 21:30:43-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A COVID-19 vaccine trial is enrolling people with severe allergies to study reactions.

At the Vanderbilt Allergy Clinic, Paul Higdon is participating in the trial. "I figured that if it helped somebody later on down the road - sure," Higdon said.

The study is analyzing how the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines impact people who are highly allergic to certain foods, drugs, or other environmental triggers and have had at least one episode of anaphylaxis.

"My allergies are beef and pork, it’s the alpha-gal which is somewhat new, Higdon said.

He believes he was bit by a lone star tick. "I was kind of waiting on a couple doctors to see if the vaccination would be okay for me."

That's why Dr. Elizabeth Phillips said the trial is so important. It analyzes how individuals like Paul will handle the shots, and they're observed for a period of time.

"A recent Gallup poll showed that 10% of the U.S. population is actually hesitant because of fear, at least 10% because of fear of an allergic reaction or adverse reaction," said Dr. Phillips.

Like most studies, some participants get the vaccine, and others get a shot with nothing in it. In the coming weeks, Paul will know if he's vaccinated. If got the placebo, he will be offered the vaccine. Dr. Phillips hopes having data will help people feel better about getting the jab.

So far, they're seeing a lower risk than anticipated. Dr. Phillips said, "I think the end goal is to say that people with severe allergies may have more mild reactions, but it’s not a reason for them not to get vaccinated."

They’re still enrolling people ages 12 and up that have severe allergies. You can email them at if you want to participate. They're also enrolling people without allergies to compare data.