California mom describes allergic reaction to Moderna vaccine

National Coronavirus Coverage

SAN DIEGO (KSWB) – Allergic reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine are rare and one San Diego woman ended up being one of the unlucky ones.

“My husband was hesitant at first about getting the shot so I convinced him, since we’re both seniors, that we should go get the shot,” Cheryl Brennan said.

Brennan was one of up to ten people who had suspected allergic reactions after getting vaccines at Petco Park, the home of Major League Baseball’s San Diego Padres, last week. Most people can drive off 15 minutes after getting the shot. But people like Brennan, who suffers from allergies, are asked to stick around for 30 minutes for observation.

“At 18 minutes, it was like my throat started closing,” she said, adding that with a quick wave and honk of the horn, help came right away. “My blood pressure went to 185 over 125, which I guess is very life-threatening. … They hooked up electrodes. They put ice packs on me. I had four EMTs and two nurses helping me and they brought my blood pressure back down within 45 minutes.”

UC San Diego Health began administering some vaccines to San Diegans 65 and older last week following new guidance from the federal government. The county is expected to start later this month.

The reactions prompted an investigation and providers statewide were instructed to set aside 330,000 Moderna doses associated with the lot. Moderna said in a statement that the company is “unaware of comparable clusters of adverse events from other vaccination centers which may have administered vaccines from the same lot.”

On Wednesday, State Epidemiologist Dr. Erica Pan told the Sacramento Bee that, after consulting with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as allergists and other experts, California is likely to resume the Moderna vaccine rollout.

Dr. William Tseng specializes in internal medicine at Kaiser Permanente. He said allergic reactions to the vaccine are extremely rare, roughly 1 out of a 100,000.

“The most common reactions people get are reactogenic,” Dr. Tseng said. “They come in, they get very excited, they want to get the vaccine. When they get it, they may have higher heart rate or higher blood pressure and they can feel this nausea sensation .. most likely it’s from the anxiety associated with getting the vaccine.”

Dr. Tseng said many people will have a red or swollen area on the arm around the area they got the vaccine, but that’s about it.

Brennan said she’s allergic to shellfish. Since sharing her story on a Facebook page, other people with allergies have contacted her asking if the vaccine is safe. She said she won’t hesitate to get her second dose next month.

“I will still absolutely, positively go,” she said. “My opinion, if I get COVID, I would probably have a lot worse reactions than just having those issues … And my husband has underlying health conditions, so it’s worth taking that chance.”

Brennan said she wanted to share her story to highlight the team at UCSD Health who reacted quickly and had her symptoms under control within 30 to 45 minutes.

“I was so impressed with the professionalism of UCSD Health,” she said.

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