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Fairbanks health system reports vaccine reaction in employee

December 18, 2020 GMT

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — A female clinician not known to have allergies had a probable severe allergic reaction shortly after getting a COVID-19 vaccine, a Fairbanks health system reported Friday.

The woman began experiencing “a probable anaphylactic reaction” about 10 minutes after receiving the shot Thursday in Fairbanks, the health care system Foundation Health Partners said. Symptoms included tongue swelling, hoarse voice and difficulty breathing — “traditional anaphylactic symptoms,” it said.

She received two doses of epinephrine at the Fairbanks Memorial Hospital emergency department and was discharged about six hours later, a statement from the health system said.

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An email seeking comment on the case was sent to Clinton Bennett, a state health department spokesperson.

On Tuesday, a female health care worker at Bartlett Regional Hospital in Juneau was hospitalized for what officials determined was anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction.

In the Fairbanks and Juneau cases, the women had been observed after receiving their shots, in accordance with vaccine protocols.

Another Juneau hospital employee on Wednesday experienced what the state’s chief medical officer, Dr. Anne Zink, later described as a minor reaction. His symptoms included eye puffiness, light headedness and scratchy throat, officials said.

Dr. Joe McLaughlin, the state epidemiologist, on Thursday said reports of reactions should be kept in context with the number of people being vaccinated.

“And then on the other side, we’ve got COVID, which is surging throughout the United States, and we’re having thousands of deaths per day from COVID. So if you just look at the big picture, the vaccination really makes such great sense,” he said.

Meanwhile, a shipment of 20 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine destined for Ketchikan was determined to be unusable because it was over-temperature when it arrived Wednesday, said Kacie Paxton, Ketchikan Gateway Borough clerk and a spokesperson for Ketchikan’s emergency operations center.

It was not immediately clear what the temperature was when it arrived. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is to be stored at temperatures around minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 70 degrees Celsius).

Paxton said the shipment had been separated out from a larger shipment sent by drugmaker Pfizer. It was repackaged and sent by the state health department in Anchorage, Paxton said by email.

A message seeking comment was left for Bennett. A replacement shipment was expected, Paxton said.