ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The first adverse reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S. happened Tuesday in Juneau, Alaska, members of the Alaska COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force said Wednesday.
Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink said a health care worker at Juneau’s Bartlett Regional Hospital had an anaphylactic reaction to the vaccine 10 minutes after being vaccinated.
The female health care worker felt flush, was short of breath and was transferred to the emergency room.
The Bartlett observation protocol is to monitor vaccinated employees for 30 minutes after they have received the COVID-19 vaccine. The employee began experiencing symptoms while still in that observation period.
The health care worker had an elevated heart rate and a rash on her face and torso. She was given an epinephrine dosage, which seemed to temporarily relieve her symptoms.
“She did have a reemergence of her symptoms, so with the same thing, elevated respiratory rate, elevated heart rate of note,” Dr. Lindy Jones at Bartlett Regional Hospital said.
She was then put on an epinephrine drip, given steroids for her anaphylactic reaction and moved to an intensive care unit for observation. She was cared for throughout the night while on the epinephrine drip but was taken off of the drip around 5 a.m. Wednesday morning, health care officials said.
Jones said the health care worker with the adverse reaction did not have a history of allergies. Doctors wanted to protect her identity and did not release much personal information about her, but Zink said she was considered middle-aged. Jones said the health care worker is now considered healthy and back to baseline. She was one of 83 people vaccinated at Bartlett yesterday, Jones said.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials said national guidance recommends people who have had adverse reactions with the first dose of the vaccine should not receive a second dose.
Doctors at Bartlett familiar with the patient said she was excited to have received the first COVID-19 vaccine dose but disappointed that she would not receive the second dose.
At the media availability Wednesday, state health officials said there have been two similar allergic reactions to the vaccine in health care workers in the United Kingdom.
“We expected that a side effect like this could occur after reports of anaphylaxis were made in England after people there received the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine,” Zink said in a prepared statement. “All sites that are approved to provide vaccinations in Alaska must have medications on hand to deal with an allergic reaction and that was the case in Juneau.”
This week, Alaska received 31,500 doses of the Pfizer vaccine in the first monthly shipment to the state. On Wednesday, six hospitals throughout the state will continue to receive orders of the vaccine in order to vaccinate frontline health care workers, emergency medical services workers and long-term care facility staff.
The Department of Health and Social Services is preparing to release a COVID-19 vaccine dashboard tracking the vaccinations in Alaska soon.