Canada

How to respond to severe reactions from the COVID-19 vaccine

WINNIPEG —
Manitoba is slowly closing in on the 80 per cent mark of eligible residents receiving their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and 70 per cent for dose two.

As of Monday, 78.7 per cent have dose one, while 66.5 per cent have double dipped.

Health officials in the province continue to encourage people to get vaccinated so Manitoba can open up further, but residents are being reminded that some side effects can happen from the vaccine and if people have concerns they should consult their health-care providers.

Kristen Bourassa is one of those people who dealt with side effects after receiving her second dose on July 16.

“Friday, I was okay. Saturday morning I woke up and I had a really bad fever, had body aches, headaches – I even had chills,” said Bourassa.

She said these symptoms continued until Tuesday at which point she called Health Links who advised her to get tested for COVID-19.

“Test results came back Wednesday and it was negative and I was still feeling the same.”

She said by Thursday nothing had changed and she decided to go to the hospital to get checked out. She said they gave her an IV and some medication and she was released early Friday morning, noting she did feel a lot better.

Dr. Joss Reimer, the medical lead for the Vaccine Implementation Task Force, said severe reactions are rare when receiving the vaccine.

“We know that many people are going to experience mild side effects as their immune system is responding to the vaccine. So certainly, if someone has a sore arm, or a fever, or just general unwell, they don’t need to do anything other than take some over-the-counter medication, some rest and plenty of fluids,” Reimer told CTV News on Monday.

However, if the side effects are more severe, Reimer said this is something you should tell your health-care provider about as this is information Public Health wants to know.

“Even if you don’t think that what you are experiencing is related to the vaccine, it can still be really helpful for that provider to fill out a form, so Public Health can keep an eye and make sure that we know whether or not there are some new, unexpected trends coming up.”

Reimer said if severe symptoms develop from the vaccine that wouldn’t be considered normal for that person, they should be seeking help right away.

Bourassa said she was one of the many people who received mixed doses, Pfizer first and Moderna second, to complete her vaccination.

Reimer said the province has gone back to recommending the same vaccine for both doses now that there is enough supply in the province again, but if mixing is still needed for someone, she said several studies have shown it is safe.

“At this point we can only say it doesn’t appear there is a clearly increased risk of side effects when you mix two products together,” said Reimer, noting mRNA vaccines will trigger a very similar immune response.

“So we don’t want people delaying their second dose, just to get the same product. But if we are talking about a difference of a day or two, then sticking with the same product is a great idea.”

Bourassa said she would recommend getting the vaccine, but noted she has been told it will affect everyone differently.

According to Reimer, some of the side effects of the vaccine include a sore arm, muscle aches, fevers, fatigue and these usually last for about one to three days.

The more serious and rare ones include allergic reactions, myocarditis, and blood clots related to the AstraZeneca shot.


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