Pseudo-Anaphylactic Reactions to Pfizer BNT162b2 Vaccine: Report of 3 Cases of Anaphylaxis Post Pfizer BNT162b2 Vaccination

Vaccines (Basel). 2021 Aug 31;9(9):974. doi: 10.3390/vaccines9090974.


Anaphylactic reactions were observed after Singapore's national coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccination programme started in December 2020. We report the clinical and laboratory features of three patients in our institution who developed anaphylactic reactions after receiving the Pifzer BNT162b2 vaccine. IgM and IgG antibodies, but not IgE antibodies to the Pfizer BNT162b2 vaccine, were detected in all subjects. Similarly, mild to high elevated levels of anti-polyethylene glycol (PEG) IgG (1035-19709 U/mL, vs. vaccine-naive < 265 U/mL, vaccine-tolerant < 785 U/mL) and IgM (1682-5310 U/mL, vs. vaccine-naive < 1011 U/mL, vaccine-tolerant < 1007 U/mL) were detected in two out of three patients via commercial ELISA. High levels of serum anaphylatoxin C3a (79.0 ± 6.3 μg/mL, mean ± SD, vs. normal < 10 μg/mL) were observed in all three patients during the acute phase of the reaction, while tryptase levels, a marker of mast cell activation, were not elevated. Finally, one patient with the highest levels of anti-PEG IgG, IgM, and anti-Pfizer BNT162b2 IgG and IgM exhibited an enhanced Th2 cytokine serum profile during an acute reaction, with high levels of IL-4 (45.7 pg/mL, vs. vaccine-naive/tolerant < 2.30 pg/mL), IL-33 (86.4 pg/mL, vs. vaccine-naive/tolerant < 5.51 pg/mL) and IL-10 (22.9 pg/mL, vs. vaccine-naive/tolerant < 12.49 pg/mL) diminishing over time following corticosteroid treatment. Taken together, we propose these cases of anaphylaxis described are driven by a complement activation-related pseudoallergy (CAPRA), rather than classical IgE-mediated mechanisms.

Keywords: COVID-19; anaphylaxis; antibodies; cytokines; vaccine.

Publication types

  • Case Reports