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Covid vaccine and dermal fillers

Does COVID-19 vaccine cause dermal filler swelling

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, scientists and doctors around the world have been racing to develop a safe and effective vaccine as a preventative measure against the contraction of COVID-19.

Over the past few months, several clinical trials have been carried out in different parts of the world with positive results. The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine has beaten rivals to be the first approved for use in the UK. On the 19th of December, Moderna was approved by the US government as the country’s second COVID-19 vaccine, clearing the way for millions of doses to be administered.

Like any medication newly introduced to the public, most people are anxious to find out if either of the two vaccines has any significant adverse effects (SAE). For many of our patients, the main concern is whether having a COVID-19 vaccine will adversely affect the dermal fillers in situ in their faces.

It has been reported that during the clinical trials of the Moderna vaccine, two people developed facial swelling after vaccination, and both had undergone cheek augmentation with dermal fillers before receiving the vaccine. One person had undergone the facial filler procedure in her cheeks two weeks before being vaccinated; the second had the filler injected around six months before having the vaccine.

It was also reported that a third participant in the clinical trial – a 29-year-old woman – had swelling in her lips two days after she received the same vaccine. This woman also had a history of injecting dermal filler into her lips. It is reported that the woman has had a similar reaction after receiving a flu vaccine.

This news can be alarming to those who have had dermal fillers and the many who are thinking about having it in the future. I am a cosmetic doctor based in Scotland’s largest city. I have been a guest expert speaker and lecturer on the use of hyaluronic acid (HA) dermal fillers in over 50 countries and 100 cities. Against that background, I would like to think I know something about this very popular substance.

There are over 250 brands of HA dermal filler in Europe, but they are not all the same. Each product brand is uniquely formulated to have a particular texture, density and longevity. Furthermore, each filler is designed to be injected at a different depth in the face. Facial fillers are considered medical devices and are subjected to quality checks by various approval bodies in other parts of the world. Approvals are meant to indicate the safety and authenticity of the products. 

In Europe, Conformité Européenne (CE) marking is conferred on products complying with European standards. In the USA, facial fillers that are accepted for use are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The UK’s lack of rules and regulations concerning injectable facial fillers has resulted in the proliferation of non-medically trained practitioners offering cheap dermal filler treatments to lure naïve people to part with their hard-earned money. These operators have brought different brands of dermal filler from China, South Korea, Poland, Turkey, and many other places into the UK market. Some of these fillers can be purchased on eBay for as little as £10. Unfortunately, these fillers are not the product of a thorough research and developmental (R&D) process. In many instances, their safety profile and approval status may be difficult to ascertain.

A reputable cosmetic clinic typically offers FDA-approved facial fillers that have proven safe and effective. Premium fillers that reputable brands manufacture will have undergone a rigorous R&D process and often have very low incidences of adverse events. That being said, on rare occasions, a foreign substance such as dermal filler in the tissue may stimulate our immune system to go into overdrive and react against the filler. This can happen some weeks or months after the treatment when people develop swelling or inflammatory nodules, which are not dissimilar to a deep-seated infection.

It has been documented that dermal fillers are not alone in being able to cause this kind of reaction: dental procedures, an infection somewhere in the body or receiving a flu vaccine can trigger an immediate adverse response from our immune system. It is worth noting, however, that the incidence is very low and may be more familiar with only certain types of fillers. What is important to note is that there are effective treatments for it. You should always have your treatment performed by a skilled, experienced, and qualified clinician. We are a referral centre for many filler complications and therefore are well equipped to deal with this particular complication. A combination of steroids, antihistamines and antibiotics are not uncommon but are prescribed alongside anti-inflammatory medications as a remedy. We have a low threshold for removing the filler.

Should you have the COVID-19 vaccine?

The short answer from me is yes. I believe the potential benefit of a COVID-19 vaccine outweighs the minimal risk of a spurious immunological reaction against the filler already in your face. An upper respiratory infection or a flu vaccine may trigger the same immune response against the filler. Very importantly, the risk of this type of delayed inflammatory reaction occurring is very low. If you have your dermal filler treatment carried out by a cosmetic doctor who is clued up about this potential complication, they will be able to deal with it effectively and safely.

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