A second staff member at Bartlett Regional Hospital in Juneau was taken to the emergency department after getting the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. According to a Dec. 16 statement from the hospital, the man experienced eye puffiness, light headedness and a scratchy throat 10 minutes after being injected.

“He was taken to the Emergency Department and administered epinephrine, Pepcid and Benadryl,” the hospital explained, adding that the man felt “completely back to normal within an hour and was released.”

Earlier in the day, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services sent out a notice about a health worker at the Juneau hospital who had a severe anaphylactic reaction to the vaccine. She is still hospitalized  and under observation, while recovering.

Her reaction was serious but not life threatening, said Emergency Department Medical Director Lindy Jones. She noted that the woman had no known previous allergies or adverse reactions to vaccines. According to the hospital, both staff members are still encouraging their colleagues to get vaccinated.

Four hundred Bartlett staff signed up for the COVID-19 inoculation. Over the past 24 hours, 144 doses of the vaccine have been administered in phase one. Staff will receive their second booster dose in three weeks.

Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer Anne Zink said the state would not be holding press conferences or publishing data on the state’s website each time a person has a negative reaction to the vaccine.

“This was new, and this was a significant one so we really wanted to make sure that information was getting out there, but we do not expect to dashboard with numbers,” she said in a Dec. 16 public Zoom meeting.

State Epidemiologist Joe McLaughlin was also on the Zoom meeting. He said vaccinated Alaskans should not think they can stop social distancing, mask wearing or hand washing because the vaccine does not guarantee that they are 100% free of the virus, and they “might still be able to spread it.”

“The answer is we don’t know yet,” he said of the possibility that vaccinated people might be able to spread the virus. “So, we are going to continue to follow the science in the weeks and months ahead.”

In terms of how long the vaccine will be effective, that too is unknown, McLaughlin said.

“It’s speculative at this point but we are keeping our fingers crossed that it’s going to be at least a year and it could be two or three years,” he said. “We’ll just have to follow the science on this, and I don’t think we’ll know the answer to that question for many months.”

The massive roll out of vaccines comes at a time when daily COVID case counts are already beginning to decline in Alaska, despite the fact that vaccines were not available.

“The overall trend seems to be flattening so we’re really encouraged by that. We don’t have any sort of back log or any big pile we are working on,” said Dr. Louisa Castrodale, an epidemiologist with the state. “We are seeing quite a bit of a flattening.”

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2nd Alaska hospital worker goes to emergency department after receiving COVID shot

Joel Davidson
Joel is Editor-in-Chief of the Alaska Watchman. Joel is an award winning journalist and has been reporting for over 20 years, He is a proud father of 8 children, and lives in Palmer, Alaska.