Dermal fillers and COVID-19 vaccines

[Moderna/Health copyright image]

I came across an article titled Can dermal filler patients have the Moderna vaccine? in the magazine Aesthetic Medicine and thought it sufficiently topical to merit discussion here. Admittedly, the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is a U.S.-developed product currently unavailable here** and there is no evidence to suggest that the U.K.’s AstraZeneca vaccine will pose the same problems for people with hyaluronic acid dermal fillers.

It was the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) medical officer Rachel Zhang who said, “in Moderna’s own Phase 3 trial three people developed facial or lip swelling after receiving the vaccine. Two people had cheek fillers within six months of vaccination and the other had had lip fillers two days after receiving the vaccine.” In each of these cases the reactions were small and easily treated by medical staff using antihistamine and steroids. “It shouldn’t stop people with fillers taking the vaccine,” said the doctors on the FDA’s committee. 

I have always steered my clients away from these kinds of aesthetic procedures on the basis that they are foreign substances injected into the body. But, I believe fillers may be less harmful than say, the botulinum toxin (e.g. Botox), which is a live bacteria that ingests nerve endings in order to immobilise muscle contraction. However, reading the FDA report has caused me to reflect on the use of fillers. Dr Purvi Parikh, an allergist and immunologist told Health, “A filler is a foreign body and when your immune system is switching on due to the vaccine it would make sense that areas that have foreign bodies that aren’t normally in your body would also have inflammation – this is because your immune system is designed to counteract any [my emphasis] foreign substance.”

It is stated in the research that the allergic response does not necessarily occur in everyone who has had hyaluronic acid dermal fillers in combination with the Moderna vaccine and, so far, there has been not been any reported cases with the Pfizer vaccine. My concern is that if fillers can be the cause of an allergic response (inflammation) to a vaccine then what of the botulinum toxin?

[ ** Update: since writing, Moderna has been approved for use in the UK ]