Most Report Few Issues With Shots

Severe Reactions Very Rare, Say Health Officials

As many in the Rockbridge area have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and others have been fully vaccinated, local residents are sharing their experience with the vaccination process.

On The News-Gazette Facebook page recently, dozens of Rockbridge area residents shared positive stories about both the process to get their shots and the usually minor side effects of the shots.

Kevin Merrill wrote that he received both doses of the Moderna vaccine at the Rockbridge Area Health Clinic. “Process was seamless. Nurses were fantastic, an A+ experience. No regrets,” he wrote.

“The process could not have been more organized,” Tonya Tyree wrote of her experience at the former Peebles building vaccination clinic. “Everyone was very pleasant. Slight sore arm for [two] days. Looking forward to second shot in April. Can’t wait for us all to get back to our normal!”

For most, soreness of the arm was the greatest of symptoms following their shot, although some noted slight headaches or “mild flu fever.

But two said experiences included rare, more severe reactions.

One of those, Sherry Stinnett Higgins, wrote that she had no issues with the first shot. After her second shot, she at first experienced “typical flu-like symptoms” of chills, aches and a temperature and a sore arm.

“Nine days after my second dose, I had a severe allergic reaction to the vaccine,” Higgins said. “It started with severe itching/burning skin and hives from head to toe, swelling of hands and feet and by the time I arrived at the ER, my throat was swelling shut. They said I was going into anaphylactic shock, requiring an immediate dose of epinephrine, along with an IV of diphenhydramine and oral dose of famotidine. Four days after the severe reaction, I attempted to not take Benadryl so I could work and I had another allergic reaction. This time involved hives, burning/ itching skin, and swelling of hands and feet. Taking Benadryl slowed down any further symptoms. I now have to see an allergist to get tested to determine the triggers. I was told at the ER that they believe the vaccine most likely caused hypersensitivity to possible existing allergies.”

According to the Central Shenandoah Health District, approximately one in 100,000 people experience a severe allergic reaction to the COVID vaccine. A severe allergic reaction, involving rash, hives, or inability to breathe, are not considered as expected symptoms from the vaccine and are to be treated as a medical emergency.

Central Shenandoah Health District Public information officer Laura Lee Wight said that health district and medical workers are vigilant of patients’ known allergies as part of the vaccination process.

Before an individual gets their shot, health care workers are to ask patients if they have ever been admitted to the hospital for an allergic reaction to medicine. It is recommended those who are allergic to polysorbate or polyethylene glycol do not get the vaccine. If anyone is unsure if he or she is allergic to these compounds, it is recommended a patient speak to his or her doctor about their allergies.

“If someone had a severe reaction to the first dose, they should talk to their doctor about getting the second,” Wight said.

The clinically mild symptoms that follow an injection, such has sore arm, headache, or slight fever, indicate the vaccine is prompting an immune response in the body.

“That’s what we want,” Wight said, adding these symptoms can be mitigated with over-the-counter pain relievers or fever reducers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

Those receiving the shots are being asked to use the CDC’s after-vaccination health checker “Vsafe,” a mobile app through which patients can log their symptoms into an online database. Folks can use the smartphone app to indicate how they are feeling in the days following their vaccine with regular, virtual “health check-ins.” On the app, individuals can indicate to the CDC if they are feeling good, normal, or poor and list more detailed symptoms. The app is not to be used for scheduling vaccinations, rather as a follow-up tool for the CDC to look at the vaccine’s effect on public health.

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