According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Alpha-Gal Syndrome is linked to vaccine anaphylaxis.
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A new tick-borne meat allergy known as alpha-gal syndrome (AGS) is making headlines, with roughly 500,000 Americans reportedly affected by the potentially fatal ailment. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), AGS instances are on the rise, increasing by approximately 15,000 cases each year between 2017 and 2022.
The newly discovered condition has also been documented in those who received vaccines containing hydrolyzed gelatin and other byproducts from affected animals, which could explain why some people develop anaphylaxis or meat allergies after vaccination.
Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening hypersensitivity condition characterized by a multi-systemic, widespread allergic reaction.
Alpha-gal (galactose-1,3-galactose) is a sugar molecule found in mammalian tissue, including pork, beef, lamb, deer, goat, and red meat products derived from those mammals, such as dairy products and gelatin, as well as some pharmaceutical products containing animal components. It does not exist in fish, poultry, eggs, reptiles, or humans.
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Evidence suggests that AGS is primarily caused by a lone star tick bite, which causes infection. The bite introduces the alpha-gal sugar molecule into the bloodstream, causing the immune system to react. Symptoms can also emerge after drinking alpha-gal-containing products.
Alpha-Gal Syndrome Reactions
AGS reactions can range from minor to life-threatening, depending on sensitivity:
- Hives or an itchy rash.
- Nausea or vomiting.
- Heartburn or indigestion.
- Cough, shortness of breath, or breathing difficulty.
- A drop in blood pressure.
- Dizziness or faintness.
- Swelling of the lips, throat, tongue, or eyelids.
- Severe stomach pain.
Unlike normal allergic reactions, symptoms usually develop two to six hours after consuming meat or dairy products or being exposed to alpha-gal-containing items, such as drugs and vaccines.
Ingredients in vaccinations that may contain alpha-gal include, but are not limited to, gelatin, glycerin, magnesium stearate, and bovine serum, according to the CDC.
Alpha-Gal Syndrome and Vaccine Ingredients
There is sometimes reluctance to deliver (pdf below) gelatin-containing vaccines due to concerns about allergic reactions, while some argue that the risk of not obtaining a particular vaccine outweighs the risk of an allergic reaction.
Because AGS is a new phenomenon, research into how it may be contributing to reports of anaphylaxis after vaccination and the effects of administering multiple vaccines containing byproducts from mammals with alpha-gal at the same time to someone with AGS is limited.
Recent case reports suggest a link between severe anaphylaxis in AGS patients and vaccines containing hydrolyzed gelatin and bovine serum, such as the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine, some influenza vaccines, varicella, MMR and varicella ProQuad vaccine, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, and inactivated polio combination vaccine (DTaP/IPV), yellow fever, zoster vaccine, and the tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis (TDaP) vaccine which are regularly administered to pregnant women.
Researchers used a basophil activation test with different dilutions of gelatin-containing MMR live vaccine, an attenuated varicella vaccine, an attenuated V-zoster vaccine, and a non-gelatin MMR vaccine with two patients positive for AGS, two patients “highly suspicious” for AGS, and two healthy individuals with no known allergies in a 2021 study published in the International Archives of Allergy and Immunology.
All individuals had strongly positive results for gelatin-containing vaccines but were negative for the non-gelatin MMR vaccine, according to the results. There was no basophil activation in the two healthy controls.
Because of their “high potential” to activate basophils, researchers concluded that gelatin-containing vaccinations should be provided with caution or avoided entirely for patients with AGS.
5-Year-Old Developed Anaphylaxis After Vaccination
A 5-year-old male with a history of AGS had anaphylaxis soon after his standard 5-year vaccinations with MMR, varicella, and DTaP/IPV vaccines, according to a 2018 report published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. He developed shortness of breath, wheezing, itching skin welts, and swelling of the face and neck five minutes after taking his immunizations, necessitating emergency medical attention.
He was diagnosed with AGS eight months before developing anaphylaxis as a result of a tick bite. He was avoiding mammalian meat at the time of his vaccinations and had no history of bad reactions to previous childhood vaccines. Scientists examined the contents of the vaccines he had received and discovered that the MMR and varicella vaccines include a high amount of gelatin per dose when compared to other vaccines—and he had received many injections containing gelatin and bovine calf serum in a single visit. Further tests revealed that the child’s anaphylactic reaction to his immunizations was caused by AGS.
Following a review of data from the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System for severe adverse events reported on the day of administration of MMR or varicella vaccines using keywords for meat associated with AGS or “alpha-gal,” researchers identified 10 adverse events consistent with an allergy to either MMR or varicella vaccines in patients with preexisting beef, pork, alpha-gal, or gelatin allergy.
Although Pfizer employs a component of cow’s milk in the early manufacturing and production process, COVID-19 vaccines do not include animal components on their product labels. According to Dr. Scott Commins, an associate professor of medicine and the associate chief for allergy and immunology at the University of North Carolina, it is unclear what this component is. To date, polysorbate or polyethylene glycol has been blamed for the majority of adverse reactions to COVID-19 vaccinations.
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