Coast woman pushing for allergy skin test as an option before COVID-19 vaccination

State health officials have said that out of two million doses of the COVID vaccine given, there have been few, if any, allergic reactions.
Published: Aug. 1, 2021 at 9:55 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 2, 2021 at 7:00 AM CDT
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BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - While COVID-19 cases continue to surge, medical experts continue to push for vaccinations, but vaccine hesitancy is a real problem.

Twyla Moore of Biloxi has wanted to receive the vaccine but because of a severe food allergy, she’s afraid. As a result, she’s been on self-imposed lockdown since the pandemic started last year.

“I am in the position that everyone else was in the last year,” she said. “And I feel like life is passing by me.”

There’s no face-to-face communication, except with her husband.

“I can’t go anywhere,” Moore said. “I go for a ride in my car. We pick up groceries. We do not meet any family members in person.”

She also spends a lot of time reading, watching television and doing hours of research every day in hopes of finding someone who will help make her feel better about taking the COVID vaccine.

“What I am asking for is… I would like to have a skin test first,” said Moore.

But, that’s not so easy. In fact, she’s found that it’s near impossible. She can’t find any medical professionals in the region who are set up for skin tests for COVID allergies.

“They just basically say that’s not necessary,” said Moore. “We don’t need to do that. You will probably be okay.”

And, that’s what they’ve said to the media.

State health officials have said that out of the two million doses of the COVID vaccine given, there have been few, if any, allergic reactions.

For Moore, that’s not acceptable.

“That’s just not reassuring enough for someone such as myself, especially when precautions are being taken at other larger markets, but not in Mississippi,” said Moore.

One clinic she has found is Charleston Allergy & Asthma in South Carolina. The clinic doesn’t test for the mRNA COVID vaccine as a whole but, rather, specific elements in the vaccine determined to be most likely to cause reactions: polyethylene glycol and two different types of polysorbate.

“The protocol we use has been published,” said Dr. Carolyn Word with Charleston Allergy & Asthma. “It’s been used by other allergists across the country. We’re not the only ones, but it is not well validated as some of the other studies.”

Dr. Word said this protocol was established when the vaccine was not readily available, but lack of cold storage and potentially wasting of whole vaccines for testing continue to be prohibited factors for many.

“Would I like to have the protocols’ more extensive studies and become more well-validated than our penicillin protocols? Certainly,” she said.

But, for now, Dr. Word said this is a good option to have.

“For us, yes, testing has been a good option,” she said. “And hopefully, other allergists will start doing it over the next few months if that’s what it’s going to take to get some of these patients through the door and get vaccinated.”

Immunologist and allergist Dr. Paul Niolet with Singing River Health System said he has many patients who have been worried about the reaction. Although his clinic is not set up for COVID allergy testing, he said it’s possible to make it happen.

“Of course, that’s not a standardized test,” he said. “It may or may not confer 100 percent predictability if you would have a reaction to the vaccine, but if someone were on the fence and that was something that would convince them to go ahead and get the vaccine, then I think it would be worthwhile doing it.”

Moore said she would prefer a test for the whole shot, but any effort would be more assurance than she has now.

Even with a test, though, she would want to take the vaccination in a medical setting. Until then, she is still waiting, but not sure how long she will hold out.

“If push comes to shove, I guess I may just have to suck it up and go take it and hope for the best, but there’s another way to go about this,” she said. “And if other places are doing it, certainly Mississippi can.”

Moore said she is willing to be an advocate for anyone else who has the same vaccine hesitancy that she has when it comes to allergies.

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