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COVID-19 Vaccines & Filler Allergies: Your Top Questions Answered

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You may have recently heard the FDA Advisory Committee report that the new Moderna vaccine has caused allergic reactions in trial participants who have used facial fillers to enhance their features. As the vaccine continues to be administered to more and more people, we are learning of different minor reactions occurring. Having performed thousands of cosmetic procedures throughout my career at my practice, Carmel Valley Facial Plastic Surgery and Aesthetic Center (San Diego), I can tell you these types of reactions are normal, not uncommon and should not be cause for alarm. I’ve received an influx of questions regarding these reported adverse effects from the COVID-19 vaccine, here are the top-line answers you need to know:

What is actually happening?
What the FDA Advisory Committee has seen is that in the 30,000-member trial conducted by Moderna, about three of those patients have experienced a reaction to cosmetic filler. The reaction was localized to where the filler was put in, so in some cases it was the lip and cheek.

Why would the COVID-19 vaccine cause this reaction?
The reaction to the vaccine is immunological and not uncommon. When you take a vaccine, suddenly your immune system ramps up. The thinking is basically because of that increased effect, the immune system is targeting those areas that a patient may have filler in and causing a more robust inflammatory response.

Why does this happen with Moderna, and not Pfizer?
The simple answer is that it’s a higher dose of the vaccine, so it’s revving up your immune system. The reason why this is happening more likely with Moderna versus Pfizer is because Moderna has three-times the dose of the vaccine over Pfizer. So, it is ramping up the immune system even more and attacking these areas of the filler.

What do you mean by fillers—is this the same as Botox?
Fillers are not Botox. Botox is used to decrease wrinkles; fillers are used to increase volume to the face. Some common brands of fillers are Voluma and Restylane. Millions of people have physician-administered cosmetic facial fillers to smooth out fine lines and wrinkles and to enhance cheeks and lips.

How long do fillers last?
Fillers can last anywhere between six months to a year. Personally, as a physician, I would say that these reports of allergic reactions are not grounds to avoid the use of the vaccine if you’ve had a history of fillers. If you look at the data, these instances were all easily treated and none of them led to any major complications.

I have fillers, should I be worried about getting the vaccine?
This possible side effect shouldn’t stop people from getting the vaccine when their turn comes up. These rare instances of reactions to derma fillers are easily treated by medical personnel.

If I have fillers, and am experiencing symptoms after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, what should I do?
Don’t panic! Overall, these reactions are very treatable with antihistamines and steroids. If the reaction is localized, as in, a very mild type of reaction just that the areas are swollen, I think the first step is to get in touch with the doctor who injected the filler. However, if you’re experiencing a severe anaphylactic reaction, you should go to the ER immediately for help.

Bottom Line: If you’ve had fillers you can get the vaccine. The risks versus the benefits definitely favor the use of the vaccine. The possible side effects are easily treated, and no cases led to major complications. I urge people to not stress or worry about if they’ve had fillers.

About The Author
Dr. Karem

Amir Karam, M.D., has devoted his career to mastering facial plastic surgery and perfecting his unparalleled facial rejuvenation practice. One of the top surgeons in the country, Dr. Karam established the Carmel Valley Facial Plastic Surgery and Aesthetic Center in San Diego in 2008. His multi-award-winning practice offers advanced techniques in facial rejuvenation and rhinoplasty, delivering natural, safe, predictable results. Throughout his career, he has performed over 6,000 successful procedures for clients across the globe, including his patented Vertical Restore and Vertical Preventtechniques, which address laxity and facial shape change associated with aging, and using customized fat transfer as an innovative way to replace facial volume permanently. Dr. Karam is double board-certified by the American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and the American Board of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery. He has published over 20 peer-reviewed research articles, over 25 surgical textbook chapters on facial plastic surgery, and has co-authored his own surgical textbook, Rejuvenation of the Aging Face. For more information, visit drkaram.com or connect with him on social media by following @dramirkaram on Instagram and TikTok, and YouTube