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Nearly five hundred Bartlett hospital staff receive first dose of Pfizer vaccine  

December 22, 2020 – News

Of the more than 7,000 Alaskans counted vaccinated with the first dose of the first released vaccine to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, 495 were staff at Bartlett Regional Hospital.

“I’m really impressed with our team who came together to help get this into people’s arms. It worked smoothly and seamlessly – the timing, handling and registration, managing data, and reporting to the state VacTrAK​  system,” said BRH Infection Preventionist Charlee Gribbon. ”That’s really exciting because they can see where the vaccine is getting used and where doses still remain.”

Healthcare facilities across the country discovered each vial could draw up six rather than the expected five vaccines. Bartlett has an additional 105 vaccines ready for staff who have yet to sign up for it.

Gribbon reported eight post inoculation adverse reactions to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention via the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). The reactions were caught during the 15-30 minute post-vaccine observation period. Most reactions, like dizziness, dry throat and itching were deemed mild. The first documented case of an anaphylactic reaction that resulted in hospitalization in the nation was that of a BRH healthcare worker. The employee, who had no history of allergic reaction, developed a rash, shortness of breath and increased heart rate shortly after receiving the vaccine.

“I remain very enthusiastic about the vaccine because it feels like a miracle,” said the affected healthcare worker.  “I watched the COVID-19 cases rising, and the death toll rising, and went to work each day worrying about my patients, my family, my community. As a frontline worker it has been months of worry and hyper vigilance, and it’s been exhausting. When I went to get vaccinated I was tearing up in my car beforehand because it felt like the crushing weight of the previous months was finally lifting a little. I was so incredibly thankful to have the protection. Obviously my own vaccination didn’t go as planned, but that is rare and I recovered. What didn’t change, despite my allergic reaction, was the feeling of hope and relief knowing that each vaccination meant one less person susceptible to a terrifying disease that has already killed so many.”

She also expressed gratitude that her colleagues were prepared for such an occurrence, and the care she received. “It makes me really proud to be part of the Bartlett Family,” she said.

The CDC has determined that people who experience anaphylaxis or anaphylactic symptoms after the first dose should not receive a second dose. The CDC also said there appears to be no obvious geographic clustering of these reactions. CDC is pointing clinicians administering the vaccine to an anaphylaxis management page.

“Adverse reactions are rare,” says State Epidemiologist Dr. Joe McLaughlin. “But they do occur, even to the flu vaccine.”

The CDC is encouraging vaccine recipients to sign up for smartphone-based regular check-ins for any side effects and reminders for their booster shots through v-safe. Researchers at the National Institutes of Health are recruiting volunteers for a study on why some allergic reactions are occurring to the Pfizer vaccine. DHSS epidemiologists point out that much more information is likely to come out in the coming weeks, as the Food and Drug Administration combs through the VAERS data.

Gribbon is excited about the next wave of vaccines arriving in Alaska, and expects more staff to get inoculated in the coming weeks. In the meantime, “we’ll keep masking, keep distancing, and see the vaccine’s impact on actual infections in this community.”

For more COVID-19 vaccination information in Alaska, go to covidvax.alaska.gov.

For more information on Bartlett Regional Hospital, contact Community Relations Director Katie Bausler at 796-8567 and 321-2755.