Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire
This photo shows vials of COVID-19 vaccine on Monday. BRH immediately began vaccinating its personnel upon receipt of the vaccine.

Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire This photo shows vials of COVID-19 vaccine on Monday. BRH immediately began vaccinating its personnel upon receipt of the vaccine.

Adverse reaction to vaccine reported in Juneau

Health officials said it was the first reported instance in the U.S.

A health care worker at Bartlett Regional Hospital in Juneau had an adverse medical reaction after receiving Pfizer/BioNTechs’s COVID-19 vaccine, said national, state and local health officials in a Wednesday morning news conference.

The woman who suffered the adverse reaction was simply identified as middle-aged health care worker.

“Late in the afternoon, we had one of the health care workers get the vaccine. About 10 minutes later, she felt flushed, so she took a Benadryl on her own,” said Dr. Lindy Jones, medical director for emergency operations at BRH, in the news conference. “When she arrived at the ER, she was feeling short of breath. She was not wheezy. Her heart rate was elevated.”

The patient was treated for anaphylactic shock, with first one, then a second dose of epinephrine, before being put on an epinephrine drip and steroids, a standard treatment for anaphylactic shock, Jones said. The patient also received antihistamines. The patient had no history of allergic reactions to vaccines before this, said BRH spokesperson Katie Bausler in an email.

In response to the adverse reaction, the hospital notified the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, using the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, said Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s chief medical officer, during the news conference.

This is the first reaction of its kind in the United States, said Dr. Jay Butler, the CDC’s Deputy Director for Infectious Disease, during the news conference, though similar reactions have occurred elsewhere.

A second hospital staff member also experienced mild adverse symptoms to the vaccine on Wednesday, Bartlett Regional Hospital announced Wednesday evening. The other staff member’s symptoms included puffy eyes, a scratchy throat and lightheadedness after being injected with the vaccine.

He was treated with epinephrine, Pepcid and Benadryl and felt normal within an hour, according to the hospital.

“We do recommend the vaccine is administered in a setting where there are the supplies available to treat anaphylaxis,” Butler said. “We are aware that there are two cases of anaphylaxis reported last week with the receipt of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in England.”

The CDC has clear guidelines and systems in place to monitor those receiving the vaccine, Butler said, which BRH followed closely and effectively.

“So far this is the only case in the United states. There may be more,” Butler said. “We can follow the example of Dr. Jones and his colleagues at Bartlett using the VAERS system to report any events that occur.”

The mechanisms for protecting people from adverse effects were set up well in advance, Butler said, and the guidelines for treatment are widely available.

“The advisory committee has put out guidelines that are available on the CDC website. We recommend that anyone who has had a severe reaction to the vaccine should forgo any sort of follow-up dose,” Butler said. “Anyone who’s receiving the currently available COVID vaccine should be observed for 15 minutes. People with a severe reaction to any vaccine or drug should be monitored for 30 minutes.”

While those who receive only a single dose have demonstrated partial efficacy in immunization from the coronavirus, Butler said, it’s considerably less effective than the two-dose system in place.

“Anaphylaxis is a known, although very rare, side effect with any vaccine,” said Dr. June Raine, executive of the United Kingdom’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency in a news release. “Most people will not get anaphylaxis and the benefits in protecting people against COVID-19 outweigh the risks.”

The health care worker is in good condition, Jones said, and she still encourages others to get vaccinated.

“She is healthy and doing well. We’re just monitoring her,” Jones said. “It’s my understanding that the plan is to discharge her this evening assuming there’s no further symptoms now that she’s off medication.”

Health care workers who received the vaccine yesterday told the Empire they felt fine after receiving the shot. At least 96 people had received the vaccine in Bartlett Regional Hospital, as of Wednesday morning, with this being the sole case of an adverse reaction. The reaction will not affect the patient’s job, Bausler said.

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at (757) 621-1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

More in News

A sign warning of a June 28, 2021, bear attack is placed at the head of the Kenai River Trail on Skilak Loop Road in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge on June 30, 2021. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)
Federal wildlife officers seek information about early-May black bear poaching

Officials think the poaching happened near the east entrance of Skilak Loop roughly 2 miles from Jims’ Landing

Alaska State Troopers logo.
Ninilchik woman dead after Tuesday collision

The woman was attempting to cross the Sterling Highway from Oil Well Road when she was struck by a pickup truck

Graduates listen to Connections Homeschool Principal Doug Hayman speak during the school’s commencement ceremony on Thursday in Soldotna. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Graduates listen to Connections Homeschool Principal Doug Hayman speak during the school’s commencement ceremony on Thursday, May 16, 2024 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Expect a lot from yourself and from others’

Connections Homeschool students accept diplomas at commencement ceremony

Screenshot
Graduates of Seward High School leave the gym at the end of their graduation ceremony on Wednesday.
‘Give people something to talk about’

Seward High School graduates 30

Kenai Police Chief David Ross speaks to Kenai City Council members about an ordinance that would repeal sections of city code that prohibit public sleeping and loitering and the city’s curfew on Wednesday, May 15, 2024, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai OKs repeal of loitering laws, curfew for minors

The policies, first enacted in 1978, are difficult to enforce and potentially violate citizens’ rights, according to the Kenai Police Department

Nikiski Middle/High School graduates throw their caps into the air at the conclusion of a graduation ceremony in the school’s gym in Nikiski, Alaska, on Wednesday, May 15, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Nikiski graduates ‘will always be a part of each other’s stories’

The graduates celebrated their time together and took a moment to anticipate the bright futures that lie ahead

A seal pup rescued from near Kenai beach is treated by the Alaska SeaLife Center’s Wildlife Response Program on May 9, 2024. (Photo courtesy Kaiti Grant/Alaska SeaLife Center)
SeaLife Center admits abandoned harbor seal pups

Both seals were found abandoned and malnourished, and both were born prematurely

Caitlin Babcock, left, and other graduates enter Soldotna High School’s commencement ceremony on Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna sends off more than 140 graduates at Tuesday commencement

More than 140 students stepped off the Soldotna High School graduation stage… Continue reading

Most Read