After one week of injecting 5,674 Alaskans with the Pfizer COVID vaccine, the state is aware of 11 Alaskans who have experienced possible allergic reactions. This includes eight cases at Bartlett Regional Hospital in Juneau, two cases at Providence Alaska and one at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital. These were all hospital staff who are among the first to get access to the vaccine.
A Dec. 21 update from Alaska’s Dept. of Health and Social Services said two of these reactions were anaphylactic, but that all patients are now “doing well.” It added that anyone who experiences anaphylaxis should not receive the second dose of the vaccine.
While Alaska is providing updated numbers on how many people receive the vaccine, Chief Medical Officer Anne Zink said last week that the state would not be reporting every instance of adverse reactions on the government’s COVID-19 dashboard.
The two known cases of anaphylactic reaction came after less than 6,000 Alaskans received the vaccine, which is way above the normal rate of anaphylactic responses in vaccine patients. According to the CDC that is usually one in one million.
The vaccine is administered under the Food and Drug Administration’s “Emergency Use Authorization,” and is not approved under normal conditions.
“The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) has been communicating with the CDC, FDA and health care partners in Alaska regarding the adverse reactions reported this week during COVID-19 vaccine clinics,” the DHSS statement noted. “Investigations into what might have caused the reactions are ongoing and DHSS is assisting.
“Reporting any adverse reaction is extremely important so we can continue to ensure the safety of these vaccines,” Zink said. “All providers are encouraged to report all adverse reactions to the VAERS system so we can continue be as transparent as possible.”
In each case where Alaskans had adverse reactions, this occurred within the first 15 to 30 minutes of receiving the COVID shot.
Despite these reactions, “Vaccinations are continuing as DHSS and its state and federal partners investigate these incidents and watch closely for any further allergic reactions,” DHSS stated.
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“We strongly encourage anyone who experiences an adverse reaction to promptly report it to the CDC via the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS),” said Alaska’s State Epidemiologist Dr. Joe McLaughlin. “Clinicians who will be administering COVID-19 vaccine should also review CDC’s guidance on anaphylaxis management to ensure that they are prepared to deal with allergic reactions should they occur.”
The COVID vaccine is being administered under the Food and Drug Administration’s “Emergency Use Authorization,” and is not approved under normal conditions. As such, vaccine administrators are required to report “vaccine administration errors, serious adverse events, cases of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome, and cases of COVID-19 that result in hospitalization or death,” DHSS stated.
A second batch of COVID vaccines arrived in Alaska on Dec. 21. Made by Moderna, these are also approved for emergency use only. The state now has received nearly 62,000 vaccine shots and will continue dispensing these “as quickly as possible,” according to Zink. Both vaccines require a second dose taken three to four weeks after the first.
- Click here to report adverse reactions to the federal Dept. of Health and Human Services.
- Click here to ask questions of Alaska Health officials on Thursday, Dec. 24, from 2-3 p.m. during a Zoom meeting.