Important note: This article is intended for those who understand vaccines as critical to maintaining their health and that of their families. It is NOT intended for those who are anti-vaccine and as such is NOT intended to foster a discussion on the merits of vaccines in this forum. It is also NOT intended to foster a discussion of the lethality of COVID-19 or the need for civic action to limit the spread of the disease.
32-year-old Annie Taal was determined to get the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine despite suffering a severe reaction to the first dose.
Taal, who suffered anaphylactic reactions in her teens and twenties, had done her due diligence on whether to get vaccinated by speaking with her doctor and her sister, a public health nurse. She was much more concerned about the effects of COVID than an allergic reaction to the vaccine.
After receiving the first dose in May, Taal spent the obligatory 15-minute observation period at the Archie Browning Arena. Seconds after she left the building, she began to feel the telltale signs of anaphylaxis coming on.
At the 18- to 19-minute mark, I felt like a truck ran over me. I was flushed, red, and hot. I looked like my whole face was sunburned. My chest was all red. I felt like I had a pineapple core shoved down my throat.
She returned to the clinic where she was treated with epinephrine, then taken to Victoria General Hospital for observation.
After recovering from the first dose, Taal met with an immunologist to determine whether she could receive the second dose. She decided to move forward with a plan to administer the second dose over a series of microdoses.
I wasn’t nervous. I felt I was in the safest place. There were two allergy specialists and eight nurses. I had no real worries. They talked me through everything so well. I was prepared for everything.
The process took roughly four hours and consisted of five tiny doses of the vaccine generally administered 15-minutes apart. When she exhibited a mild reaction to a microdose, they would extend the waiting period until the next dose.
Said Taal, “They stretch the 15 minutes out until you plateau and feel OK. At every point, they say: ‘Are you ready for the next one?’”
She decided to go public with her endeavor because she understands that people are concerned about receiving the vaccine.
“Even if one person with serious allergies who is scared to get vaccinated asks their doctor about it, that’s worth it to me,” said Taal.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that anaphylaxis to the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines is extremely rare. During a 10-day period in December of 2020, the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System detected 21 cases of anaphylaxis after administration of a reported 1,893,360 first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine (11.1 cases per million doses); 71% of these occurred within 15 minutes of vaccination.