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Few people are medically exempt from receiving COVID-19 vaccine: Experts

Few people are medically exempt from receiving COVID-19 vaccine: Experts

As companies continue to increase vaccination mandates to combat the contagious delta variant, some institutions are giving employees a chance to opt out of getting the vaccine if they have a medical dispensation.

“Apart from age, there are no major exceptions that cover large groups of people,” he told ABC News.

The current guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that two-dose mRNA vaccines and one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine are safe for almost all patients.

The only major contraindication to the vaccines listed by the CDC is a severe allergic reaction to the first dose. In these cases, the person is advised to consult a physician and discontinue their second dose, according to Dowdy.

“We’re not talking about some people who had injection site pain or rashes, we’re talking about anaphylactic shock,” he said.

Dowdy said the data so far show that this serious allergy is rare and less than one in 1 million people experience it.

Dr. Jeff Linder, head of general internal medicine and geriatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, told ABC News that research so far shows that those who have a severe allergic reaction are likely triggered by polyethylene glycol (PEG), a component of the vaccines.

“An allergy to it is pretty rare,” he told ABC News. “It had to be documented as a moderate or severe allergy before I would consider giving a medical exemption.”

Overall, the COVID-19 vaccines are safe for people with “moderate to severe immune compromise,” underlying conditions, pregnant women, women attempting to become pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, according to the CDC.

Linder said these populations are most vulnerable to serious illness and death from coronavirus, and it is important that they get their shots.

“Anyone who says ‘I have a medical condition’ is more of a reason to be vaccinated,” he said.

The CDC has some additional precautions in place for people with certain medical conditions. For example, people with a history of heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (HIT) are advised to get an mRNA vaccine if they are within 90 days of illness, the CDC said. Women over the age of 50 are also warned about the potential risk of thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) if they choose the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, according to the CDC.

The agency is currently advising to stop getting the vaccine immediately in two circumstances.

If a person is currently diagnosed with COVID-19 or under quarantine for a suspected case, they are advised to take their shots until the end of the quarantine period, according to the Agency’s guidelines. If a patient receives monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma to treat COVID-19, they are advised to discontinue their vaccination agreement for 90 days, the CDC said.

Dowdy said none of the scenarios should prevent anyone from getting any of the vaccines when they are eligible.

“People ask, ‘If I’ve had COVID before, can I have the vaccine?’ The answer is yes, getting the vaccine adds extra protection, ”he said.

Dr. Jay Bhatt, an internal medicine doctor, an instructor at the University of Illinois School of Public Health and an ABC News contributor, added that special care should be taken for patients awaiting an organ transplant, who have recently received an organ transplant or are receiving metastatic cancer treatment. These patients should talk to their doctors and set a schedule for the earliest and safest time to get their shots.

“It’s less about not being vaccinated, it’s more about when they will do it,” he said. “If they are in the middle of treatment … you want to make sure they are positioned correctly.”

Researchers say it is highly unlikely that the list of medical exceptions will change in the near future. Over 178 million Americans over the age of 12 have been fully vaccinated since December, and so far there have been no reports of any adverse effects on patients with medical conditions, according to Linder.

“The thought of us missing something that is even rare or serious seems very unlikely to me,” he said.

Linder recommended that anyone still hesitant to get the vaccine over a medical problem should consult their doctor and review the data that has predominantly shown that the vaccines are safe.

“The risk of COVID is still high,” he said. “Ultimately, we know that COVID vaccines are extremely effective in preventing hospitalization and death.”

Anyone who needs help planning a free vaccination appointment can go to vaccines.gov.

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