Wednesday, June 29, 2022
HomeCOVID-19A life-threatening allergy to the vaccine? No, we won’t exempt you!

A life-threatening allergy to the vaccine? No, we won’t exempt you!

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I’M against passes of any kind. But I’m 72 and like to travel, so I thought I would apply for an NHS pass showing I was exempt from Covid vaccination.  

My reason for choosing not to have any of the vaccines is that some years ago I had a very frightening episode of anaphylaxis – a severe and potentially life-threatening reaction to an allergen – after having an antibiotic which contained polyethylene glycol.  

Polyethylene glycol is closely related to polysorbate, and both are ingredients in one or the other of the currently available Covid vaccines.   

I was told by the GP to whom I reported my anaphylaxis that this episode would predispose me to further such episodes and that I needed to be very careful in future.  

I have also experienced vomiting after both the typhoid and hepatitis A vaccines (the latter contains polysorbate). I now carry EpiPens, which inject adrenaline into the body for emergency treatment of anaphylaxis.   

At the beginning of the Covid vaccination programme, I researched polyethylene glycol and polysorbate and became aware of how allergenic they are. I decided that getting the jab sounded extremely risky, given my history.


At my GP surgery I recounted my experiences and the member of staff I spoke to agreed that I should certainly not have any of the vaccines on offer.

So I applied for my exemption pass. Following the instructions on the Government website, I rang 119 and obtained a form which I filled in and sent to my GP for verification. 

I waited a number of weeks and heard nothing.  Eventually I got a call from the surgery saying they had another form for me to fill in. This turned out to be a two-page referral form for the vaccine. When I queried this, I was told it was part of the procedure to check whether there were any vaccines I could have.  

When I told the GP there was no way I would have any vaccine, he said he had to add my comments to the form before he signed it. I filled in the form and returned it to the surgery.   

In the meantime, the GP also referred me to the immunology department of my local hospital because of my increasing problems with multiple allergies. This indicates I am certainly at further risk from severe adverse reactions to numerous medications and substances.

I then received a call from the immunology department telling me they wanted to explore the possibilities of vaccination for me, because not having it would impact on my life, my ability to travel and to participate in events. They did stop short of offering me a Happy Meal at McDonald’s.   

I was questioned on every form of medicine I have ever had, including their brand names and including the contraceptive pill (I’d be going back 30 years for that).  They said they needed to be sure I really was unable to have the vaccine and they would get the team to look at my details and let me know.  

They said it might be possible for me to go into hospital and have the vaccine under medical supervision. This indicates that they are aware I might need resuscitation facilities and they understand I would be put in the way of harm. Which makes me wonder what happened to ‘first, do no harm’ – the basic principle of those giving medical care.   

I also wonder how the NHS, supposedly under pressure of being overwhelmed, is able to provide such a service to me.   

Apparently, vaccination even under medical supervision can be subject to problems. I understand a delayed reaction can take place when you are back at home, with no support other than an EpiPen.   

I am terrified of a repeat experience of anaphylaxis. So I was shocked when my GP phoned to say that I was not eligible for an NHS exemption and that I could have the vaccine. As you can imagine, I will not be risking it.   

If I am not exempt despite prior anaphylaxis caused by a substance containing polyethylene glycol, then I cannot imagine anyone being exempt. I find on looking through the latest advice that even if someone has anaphylaxis after their first shot, they should not be deterred from having a second.   

I reiterate: What happened to ‘first, do no harm?’   

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Sue Atkinson
Sue Atkinson
Sue Atkinson has a research background.

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