A health care worker in Maine experienced anaphylaxis upon receiving their first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine this week, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention announced Wednesday. The unidentified health care worker was treated and has since recovered.
It is the first vaccine-related case of anaphylaxis reported in Maine, which had inoculated 13,089 residents by Thursday after the first shipment of the vaccine arrived last week, and one of a small number of such reactions reported in the US.
The Maine Med employee had a history of severe allergies and past experience with anaphylaxis, which can cause a widespread rash and swelling, plummeting blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, and difficulty breathing. Hospital staff at the vaccination clinic were briefed on the employee’s medical history and observed the person after being vaccinated, as with all COVID-19 inoculations, according to the Portland Press-Herald.
The person started showing symptoms of an allergic reaction after 10 minutes, which quickly progressed into anaphylaxis. The person was given an epinephrine pen injection and transported to the emergency room for further treatment, which could have included steroids, oxygen, and intravenous fluids.
Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine CDC, said Wednesday that the anaphylaxis experienced by the Maine Med employee was similar to those reported in other states and other countries, but emphasized that such reports remain rare.
Of the more than one million Americans vaccinated so far this month, only a handful have experienced allergic reactions similar to the Maine health care worker. In Alaska last week, three health care workers were treated for anaphylactic reactions shortly after receiving the vaccine and have recovered. One had no previous allergies.
Experts recommend that all people receiving the vaccines be monitored on-site for 15-30 minutes, depending on whether the recipient has a history of severe allergic reactions. Normal side effects include pain and swelling at the injection site, and possible short-term fever, chills, fatigue, and headaches.
The virus itself has infected more than 78 million people globally and killed approximately 1.73 million — including more than 326,000 in the United States. Approximately 10 to 15 percent of COVID cases progress to severe disease. Prolonged illness, with symptoms that linger for weeks or months, has been reported by patients young and old, according to the World Health Organization.