2 Alaska health care workers remain enthusiastic about Pfizer vaccine, even after allergic reactions

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ByKate Larsen KGO logo
Thursday, December 17, 2020
Health workers support vaccine, even after allergic reactions
Two health care workers in Alaska has allergic reactions to Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine, yet both are still happy they took it.

ALASKA (KGO) -- UCSF received 975 doses of the Pfizer vaccine Wednesday, which were quickly administered to frontline workers.

Emergency room doctor, Tomas Diaz, received one of the first doses.

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"I don't know until getting the vaccine how much of a relief it would be to feel a little bit safer. To feel like we're on the path to getting out of this pandemic even though there's still a long way to go," said Dr. Diaz.

Thousands of health care workers across the country continue to receive Pfizer's vaccine successfully.

But two days into the U.S. rollout, came the first reports of serious adverse reactions.

A health care worker in Juneau, Alaska, with no history of allergies, had an anaphylactic reaction during the 15 minute observation period after the shot. The woman was hospitalized and given epinephrine by IV.

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Dr. Lindy Jones, from the hospital in Juneau, described her symptoms. "Short of breath, her heart rate was elevated, and she had a red flushed rash over her face and torso."

The patient is now stable and being monitored.

"She was still enthusiastic that she got the vaccine," said Dr. Lindy.

A second vaccine recipient in Alaska had a less serious allergic reaction - eye puffiness, light headedness, and a scratchy throat. He was treated with epinephrine, Pepcid and Benadryl, according to Bartlett Regional Hospital.

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Both incidents were reported to the CDC's Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) database.

"The data would say we can have every confidence in this vaccine, and it is so important to fighting this pandemic," said Dr. Chris Colwell, Chief of Emergency Medicine at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital.

"If you're going to have a severe reaction, it's generally fairly quickly after getting the shot, usually within the hour and often within the first 10-15 minutes of it," he said.

Dr. Colwell points out that severe allergic reactions are rare. There have been two other cases, both reported in the UK, in people with a history of allergies.

"It is true that those reactions can be serious, and should be taken seriously, but is extremely uncommon and still represents a far lower risk than this virus," said Dr. Colwell.

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