Fairbanks Memorial Hospital employee has reaction to Pfizer vaccine

Foundation Health Partners, which manages Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, was awarded nearly $5...
Foundation Health Partners, which manages Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, was awarded nearly $5 million in CARES Act funds from the City of Fairbanks, the full amount they requested. (Ramzi Abou Ghalioum/KTVF) (KTVF)
Published: Dec. 18, 2020 at 11:52 AM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - A Foundation Health Partners (FHP) employee experienced a probable anaphylactic reaction shortly after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine late afternoon, Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020. The employee, who is not known to have allergies was one of almost 300 employees to receive the vaccine yesterday. Every employee that receives the vaccine is observed for 15 to 30 minutes.

The two-year employee, a female, wishes to maintain her privacy. She began experiencing traditional anaphylactic symptoms about 10 minutes after receiving the vaccine. Symptoms included tongue swelling, hoarse voice, difficulty breathing. FHP’s temporary vaccine clinic is equipped with an emergency anaphylaxis kit. Supplies include diphenhydramine (Benadryl), Epinephrine, famotidine (Pepcid), hydrocortisone, methylprednisolone sodium, and ipratropium bromide and albuterol sulfate. It was not necessary to use the kit as the employee was taken to the Emergency Department for care.

The employee received two doses of epinephrine In the Emergency Department of Fairbanks Memorial Hospital (FMH), where she remained under observation and was discharged approximately six hours after receiving the doses.

FHP is working with the State of Alaska Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to share details of the reaction. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the CDC have created several programs for tracking any adverse reactions to the vaccine. FHP reported details of yesterday’s event to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). This national system collects and analyzes data that helps federal health authorities monitor the safety of vaccines.

Pfizer officials say there were no cases of serious allergic reactions in the clinical trial of its safety and efficacy involving nearly 44,000 participants. The CDC issued a new recommendation on Dec. 13 indicating that people who have had severe reactions to vaccines or injectable drugs can still get the Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19 but risks should be discussed with their care provider and be monitored for 30 minutes after receiving the vaccine.

This reversed the CDC’s initial recommendation that advised those with a history of reactions not be vaccinated.

“Allergic reactions, though uncommon, can occur with injections of medications and vaccines,” said Chief Medical Officer Dr. Angelique Ramirez. “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.”

The employee, a clinician, issued a statement and at her request, it is being shared. “Anaphylaxis is a rare but expected potential side effect that is treatable and does not have long term health implications like COVID. 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. 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.”

FHP received its first allotment of the vaccine on Wednesday, Dec. 16 and began vaccinating front line employees on Thursday. Employees who are at greatest risk for COVID-19 exposure and those who come into close contact with patients who have COVID-19 are the first to receive the vaccine. Vaccinations are scheduled through Sunday.

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