ENTERPRISE — A Wallowa Memorial Hospital health care worker has recovered and is out of the hospital after the Oregon Health Authority reported late Thursday, Dec. 31, the individual suffered an allergic reaction to the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.
The OHA, in its initial press release, said the hospital worker was hospitalized after experiencing anaphylaxis following their first shot of the two-dose vaccine.
In a follow-up email with the Chieftain on Monday, Jan. 4, OHA’s COVID-19 Health Information Center spokesperson Delia Hernandez said anaphylaxis was the only reaction the individual had to the vaccine.
Brooke Pace, Wallowa Memorial Hospital’s communications director, said late Tuesday morning the health care worker, who had received the first dose Dec. 30, recovered and had been released.
Pace also said nobody else in the county who has received a dose of the vaccine has had an adverse response.
“There have been no other severe reactions,” she said.
According to Ruthie Mann, WMH’s infection-control officer, the reaction to the vaccine happened within a couple of minutes of it being administered, well within the observation window.
“All individuals are asked to stay for 15 minutes after the vaccination,” Mann said, explaining the process. “Once a reaction is suspected, we assess for signs and symptoms of a reaction and the severity. We obtain vital signs, check airway and evaluate the person’s reported symptoms. We have an anaphylaxis kit available with the necessary drugs and medical equipment needed to initiate treatment. We simultaneously start treatment and notify EMS and the ER of the reaction. We transport to the ER as quickly as possible.”
It’s not yet known which ingredient in the vaccine caused the reaction.
Neither Hernandez nor Pace knew for sure if the individual would opt out of the second inoculation shot, though Pace believed the individual would elect not to take the follow-up dose. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention strongly recommend an individual who has a reaction not take the second dose, and Hernandez said OHA echoes that view.
“OHA is aligned with CDC recommendations that if a person has had an immediate allergic reaction — even if it was not severe — to any ingredient in a COVID-19 vaccine, they should not get either of the currently available COVID-19 vaccines,” Hernandez said.
The reaction is the first such reported by the OHA, and appears to be the first known COVID-19 vaccine reaction in Oregon out of more than 50,000 administered doses. Hernandez, though, said adverse events — like a reaction — are not reported to the health authority, and instead are reported to Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System. OHA learned of this individual’s reaction because of its tie to Wallowa County as its local public health authority.
“They are generally reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), which means to the federal government for aggregation across the country,” Hernandez said of adverse reactions. “We became aware of this particular severe reaction in our role as local public health authority for Wallowa County.”
The VAERS system online shows reactions to a range of vaccines — including COVID vaccines — through Dec. 24.
Vaccine update in Wallowa County
To date, all 100 doses from the initial shipment of the Moderna vaccine to Wallowa County have been administered, Pace said. Wallowa County last week received its second shipment of 100 doses, Pace said, and also received an additional 200 doses for the second round of shots to complete the inoculation process for those individuals.
The county had a brief uptick in COVID-19 cases over the weekend, with OHA reported one case each Friday and Saturday, and two cases Sunday. There were no new cases on Monday, putting the county total at 80.