A Fairbanks health care worker was treated for a “probable” serious allergic reaction on Thursday after she received the COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Foundation Health Partners care system.
All those who experienced the reactions are doing well. None are still hospitalized and all three workers have recommended that others continue to receive the vaccination — which is expected to be one of the most important tools in ending the pandemic, officials say.
The Fairbanks worker started to show what hospital officials described as “traditional anaphylactic symptoms,” including tongue swelling, hoarse voice and difficulty breathing, roughly 10 minutes after getting vaccinated, Foundation Health Partners spokeswoman Kelly Atlee wrote in an emailed release Friday morning.
She was taken to the Fairbanks Memorial Hospital emergency department and treated with epinephrine before being discharged six hours later. The worker does not have a history of allergies, but did have a reaction to a bee sting that was not confirmed as an allergic reaction, Atlee said. Thursday was the first anaphylactic event that the worker experienced.
The vaccine has been safely administered to thousands of Americans nationwide this week. Health officials have emphasized that allergic reactions are rare.
The vaccine, developed by drugmakers Pfizer and BioNTech, showed no serious allergic reactions in clinical trials, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people with a history of serious allergic reactions discuss getting the vaccine with their doctor.
“Allergic reactions, though uncommon, can occur with injections of medications and vaccines,” Foundation Health Partners chief medical officer Dr. Angelique Ramirez said in a prepared statement. “This is why our staff is trained and prepared to respond to any symptoms of anaphylaxis. Our employee is doing well and was able to go home yesterday.”
Despite her reaction, the employee, who officials wrote in the release prefers to maintain her privacy, still recommends people get vaccinated.
“I would get the vaccine and recommend it to anyone, despite my reaction, to help our country get immunized which is needed for the health of all Americans, for the economy, get families hugging again, for getting children back to schools, and to get the country on the other side of this pandemic,” she wrote. “I’ve seen firsthand the suffering and death of COVID patients, and my adverse reaction to the vaccine pales to what COVID infection can do to people.”
Foundation Health Partners, which operates Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, Tanana Valley Clinic and the Denali Center, is working with the Alaska health department and the CDC to provide details of the woman’s reaction.
In an emailed statement, a representative from Pfizer wrote that the company does not have all the details regarding allergic reactions in Alaska. The company said it’s monitoring reports of such reactions and that they would update labelling language if necessary, the statement said.
“The prescribing information has a clear warning/precaution that appropriate medical treatment and supervision should always be readily available in case of a rare anaphylactic event following the administration of the vaccine,” company officials said in the statement.
The company said they did not identify safety signals of concern in their clinical trial process, but that they would continue to monitor reports of adverse reactions.
“Reports of adverse events outside of clinical studies are a very important component to our pharmacovigilance activities and we will review all available information on this case and all reports of adverse events following vaccination,” the statement said.