Dec. 18, 2020 -- Two healthcare workers at Bartlett Regional Hospital in Juneau, Alaska, had adverse reactions after receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine. Neither reaction was considered life threatening, the hospital said.

The first worker got the injection on Tuesday and showed signs of an anaphylactic reaction within 10 minutes, Katie Bausler, the hospital community relations director said in a Facebook post.

The worker had “increased heartbeat, shortness of breath and skin rash and redness. She was given epinephrine and Benadryl, admitted to the hospital, and put on an intravenous epinephrine drip,” the Facebook post said.

That worker stayed in the hospital Tuesday and Wednesday nights. Bartlett Regional Hospital Emergency Room Director Lindy Jones, MD, said her reaction was serious but not life threatening.

The second worker got an injection on Wednesday and soon experienced eye puffiness, light headedness, and scratchy throat, the hospital said. He was taken to the emergency department and given epinephrine, Pepcid, and Benadryl.

“He felt completely back to normal within an hour and was released. He too does not want his experience to have a negative impact on his colleagues lining up for the vaccine,” the hospital said on Facebook. His reaction was not considered anaphylaxis.

More than 400 hospital workers have signed up to receive the vaccine, and 144 got it during phase one of the vaccination process, the hospital said.

The adverse reactions were reported to the CDC. Health authorities have said people receiving the COVID-19 vaccine could expect physical reactions typical of most vaccinations, such as soreness at the injection site and fatigue.

“We expected that a side effect like this could occur after reports of anaphylaxis were made in England after people there received the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine,” Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer Anne Zink, MD, said in statement released by the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. “All sites that are approved to provide vaccinations in Alaska must have medications on hand to deal with an allergic reaction and that was the case in Juneau.”

In the United Kingdom, two people had reactions following the rollout of the Pfizer vaccine last week. Health authorities responded by saying people with a history of allergic reactions should delay taking the new vaccine.

Paul Offit, MD, a member of the FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, told CNN that doctors must watch closely for the kinds of allergic reactions seen in Alaska.

"Currently, the CDC recommendation is that if you ever had a severe allergic reaction to an injectable medical product, you shouldn't get this vaccine," said Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center and professor of pediatrics at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

WebMD Health News Brief

Sources

Bartlett Regional Hospital Facebook.

Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. “First Alaskans receive COVID-19 vaccine; adverse reaction reported in health care worker in Juneau.”

CNN. “2 Alaska health care workers suffer reactions to Covid-19 vaccine.”

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