ANCHORAGE, Alaska – A Juneau health worker was hospitalized and treated for a serious allergic reaction on Tuesday after receiving the covid-19 vaccine, hospital and health officials said Wednesday.
The worker felt flushed and took an antihistamine about 10 minutes after receiving the vaccine Tuesday afternoon, authorities said. She felt short of breath and was taken to the emergency room, said Dr. Lindy Jones, medical director of the emergency room at Bartlett Regional Hospital in Juneau.
On arrival at the emergency room, where Jones was the attending physician, she had an elevated heart rate and a red rash on her face and trunk, he said. Jones began treating her for anaphylaxis with epinephrine and more antihistamines, to which she responded.
But her symptoms started to resurface, he said, and she was treated with more adrenaline and steroids. When health care providers attempted to wean the worker off the epinephrine, her symptoms reappeared before disappearing, Jones said, and she was then taken to intensive care for overnight observation, he said. She was in stable condition Wednesday “and she’s doing fine,” said Jones.
Jones said the plan was to fire her Wednesday night as long as she no longer has symptoms and stays off all medications, Jones said.
“She was still excited about getting the vaccine and the benefits it would bring her in the future,” said Jones.
The charwoman, described as middle-aged, always had a positive attitude, Jones said, and was disappointed that she would not be able to receive the second dose of the vaccine.
“She encouraged all of us to keep going,” Jones said.
According to Kathryn Bausler, a hospital spokesman, Bartlett’s vaccinations began on Tuesday and nearly 100 primary care hospital staff have been vaccinated so far.
The worker had no history of allergic reactions and is not allergic to certain vaccines, Jones said.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers having a history of serious allergic reactions to another vaccine a “precaution,” but doesn’t see it as a reason to avoid the COVID-19 vaccine, says Dr. Jay Butler, deputy director for infectious diseases at the CDC, said in a video interview with reporters on Wednesday.
The CDC recommends that the vaccine be administered in facilities that have facilities for a possible serious allergic reaction and those who do have a history of such reactions can follow for 30 minutes after vaccination instead of the standard 15 minutes, Butler said. who is also the former Chief Medical Officer of Alaska.
The safety of a covid-19 vaccine is a “top priority,” Butler said, weighed against its risks. The Juneau employee’s response is the only case reported in the United States so far.
Butler also encouraged anyone who received the vaccine to enroll in a federal program in which vaccine recipients receive daily check-in texts for the first week after vaccination. Butler said he wants to continue transparent communication with the public.
“It’s important for people to understand what’s happening and what’s not happening – what we know and what we don’t know,” Butler said.
The plight of the Alaska worker made national and international news on Wednesday.
Two health workers in Britain had anaphylactic reactions and recovered after receiving the vaccine when that country started vaccinating people last week. Trials in the United States found no serious complications in the participants, although many had mild side effects, including pain and fever, the New York Times reported.
Alaska received a shipment of vaccines developed by Pfizer and BioNTech on Sunday evening and began vaccinating this week. Those who prioritized the first shots included primary care workers, people administering the vaccines, community health workers, residents and long-term care facility personnel and relief workers.
Pfizer responded to questions about the incident, saying it was aware of the Alaska incident but did not yet have all the details. Participants in the third phase of the drug trial were excluded if they had had severe reactions to vaccines or ingredients in the Pfizer vaccines in the past, officials from the drug manufacturer said in a prepared statement.
“Overall, there were no safety signs of concern in our clinical studies, including no sign of serious allergic reactions related to the vaccine,” they wrote. “However, reports of adverse reactions outside of clinical trials are a very important part of our pharmacovigilance activities and we will review all available information on this case and all reports of adverse reactions following vaccination.”
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