Not all vaccination reactions are created equal. And reporting in the media may vary.
Two Alaska health care workers who have received the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine had serious allergic, or anaphylactic reactions last week, the first week when the vaccination was available in Alaska. Two, not three.
CBS News has reported the number as three, but according to MRAK sources in the medical community, the anaphylactic reactions are only two.
One of them, a Juneau healthcare provider, stayed overnight in Bartlett Regional Hospital in order to assist the CDC with gathering information about the reaction, giving blood samples and having her vitals taken. But it was more for informational purposes. She didn’t have to stay for her health.
The other who had the allergic reaction was in Fairbanks and did not stay overnight in the hospital. She received two doses of epinephrine at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, where she was under observation for about six hours before being discharged.
Any reaction at all — even something as mild as feeling light-headed — is being entered into the VAERS database. That stands for Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System. Health care providers who are administering the vaccine are instructed to enter the information, no matter how minor, if they think there has been any immediate reaction to the shot.
For example, if a nurse is coming off of an overnight shift and is tired, and gets the vaccination, only to stand up and feel a little lightheaded, that would be considered an adverse reaction and will be entered into VAERS.
Side effects for both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine are generally mild and temporary, similar to a flu vaccine, with possible pain at the injection site, headache, fever, fatigue, chills, muscle aches, and joint pain.
The incidences of reactions are not being broadcast daily in the State of Alaska’s COVID-19 dashboard, because they are few and far between. But they will be included in weekly reports and other updates to the public.
On Sunday, the State reported a significant drop in COVID-19 positive cases. Only 185 new people were noted positive, one of the lowest numbers since October. 180 were residents in: Anchorage (88), Eagle River (18), Bethel (13), Kenai (8), Fairbanks (6), Homer (6), Palmer (6), Soldotna (6), Utqiaġvik (6), Wasilla (4), Chugiak (3), Juneau (2), North Pole (2), Sterling (2), and one each in Bethel Census Area, Girdwood, Kenai Peninsula Borough North, Kotzebue, North Slope Borough, Northwest Arctic Borough, Prince of Wales-Hyder, Sitka, Sutton-Alpine, and Wrangell. Five were in nonresidents.
There are only 109 people hospitalized in Alaska with COVID-19 on Sunday, Dec. 20, and there are 38 intensive care unit beds available, while 85 ICU beds are occupied with both COVID and non-COVID patients.
All of that is a testament to the Dunleavy Administration’s light touch on handling the pandemic, balancing civil liberties with public health priorities, such as caring for those who are sick, frail, and elderly in society, and preventing health care infrastructure from being overwhelmed.
At this time of year, many hospital beds are filled with people trying to get their shoulders, hips, and knees replaced so they can book it on this year’s health insurance account. Those types of surgeries and others that are considered in the elective category typically drop off on Jan. 1, when more hospital beds are expected to be freed up.
Also, there are almost no cases of flu this year in Alaska, and that has freed up hospital beds as well, according to MRAK’s medical sources.