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Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Scientists believe the compound polyethylene glycol — known as PEG — is to blame for the reported allergic reactions to the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Driving the news: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified six allergic reactions to the vaccine out of the 272,001 doses given through Dec. 19.

  • No allergic reactions have been reported for the Moderna vaccine, which also contains PEG. The Food and Drug Administration said it will be following the vaccine's rollout "very closely," according to WSJ.
  • The U.K. reported two severe reactions to the vaccine on Dec. 8.

What they're saying: "What we’re learning now is that those allergic reactions could be somewhat more common than the highly uncommon that we thought they were because people do get exposed to polyethylene glycol in various pharmaceutical preparations," said Peter Marks, director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, per WSJ.

Worth noting: "PEG has never been used before in an approved vaccine, but it is found in many drugs that have occasionally triggered anaphylaxis," the journal Science writes.

  • However, scientists say PEG-induced allergic reactions are uncommon and also suspect that people could have reacted to a different compound in the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

The bottom line: Scientists still argue that vaccination must continue despite the suspected reactions to PEG, although more data is needed.

  • "We need to get vaccinated," Elizabeth Phillips, a drug hypersensitivity researcher at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, told Science. “We need to try and curtail this pandemic."

Go deeper

Jan 29, 2021 - Health

WHO says most pregnant women can now receive coronavirus vaccine

A doctor administering Moderna's coronavirus vaccine at a university hospital in Essen, Germany, on Jan. 18. Photo: Lukas Schulze/Getty Images

The World Health Organization has altered its guidance for pregnant women who wish to receive the coronavirus vaccine, saying now that those at high risk of exposure to the COVID-19 or who have comorbidities that increase their risk of severe disease, may be vaccinated.

Why it matters: The WHO drew backlash for its previous guidance that did not recommend pregnant women be inoculated with vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna, even though data indicated that pregnancy increased the risk of developing severe illness from the virus.

Jan 29, 2021 - World

EU grants conditional approval of AstraZeneca vaccine

Photo: Sunil Ghosh/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

The European Commission on Friday granted conditional approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine for people 18 years and older.

Why it matters: This is the third vaccine to receive approval from the commission, coming hours after the Emergency Medicines Agency recommended its authorization.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Fauci: "Confident" Omicron cases will peak in February.
  2. Vaccines: The shifting definition of fully vaccinated.
  3. Politics: New York Supreme Court strikes down Gov. Hochul's mask mandate for public areas — Sarah Palin tests positive for COVID, delaying defamation trial — Virginia school boards sue Gov. Youngkin for lifting mask mandate.
  4. World: U.K. to lift travel testing requirement for fully vaccinated — Beijing Olympic Committee lowers testing threshold ahead of Games.
  5. Variant tracker

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