Alaska health care worker has serious allergic reaction after taking Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine

A health care worker in Alaska experienced a serious allergic reaction and was hospitalized after taking Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, state officials said Wednesday. The worker, who is middle-aged and had no previous history of allergies, is now stable but is being monitored at a hospital in Juneau.

The worker received the vaccine Tuesday at Bartlett Regional Hospital. After 10 minutes of taking the vaccine, she began feeling “flush” and had shortness of breath, said Dr. Lindy Jones, an emergency room doctor at the hospital. Jones said the worker’s heart rate was elevated and she had a “red flushed rash” on her face and torso.

She was given Benadryl, Pepcid and epinephrine, and was kept overnight. “During the whole time, she was still enthusiastic that she got the vaccine and the benefits that it would give her in the future,” Jones said. 

This is the only country’s case of an allergic reaction to the vaccine, according to Dr. Jay Butler, the CDC’s deputy director for infectious diseases.

The FDA authorized Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use after clinical trials in the U.S. showed the shot was almost 95% effective for adults 18 to 64. None of the 44,000 participants experienced any adverse reactions.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, in a CNBC interview, reminded viewers that vaccine safety goes “beyond the confines” of clinical trials. “Once you decide to dispense the vaccine widely you’re talking about millions and tens of millions and ultimately hundreds of millions of doses. So, you may see reactions that you didn’t see in the clinical trials,” he said Wednesday.

Last week, British health officials warned that people with a history of “significant” allergic reactions to vaccines, medicine, or food should not be given Pfizer’s vaccine. Two health care workers there experienced “adverse reactions” after taking the drug.

“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,” Alaska’s chief medical officer, Dr. Anne Zink, said in a statement Wednesday. “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.” 

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