Taiwan reports first serious adverse reaction to AZ vaccine

Four days into its AstraZeneca vaccine rollout, Taiwan has administered the shot to more than 5,000 people. It’s also reported its first case of serious adverse reactions. The health ministry confirmed Thursday that the case involves a nurse who experienced heart palpitations, a skin rash, and high blood pressure five minutes after getting the shot on Wednesday. The nurse stabilized after treatment with steroids and antihistamines, and she was discharged from intensive care Thursday morning.

On Day 4 of Taiwan’s AZ vaccine rollout for front-line staff, news broke of a case of severe allergic reactions.

It involves a registered nurse in her 40s, who was vaccinated at a hospital up north. The nurse received the AZ vaccine Wednesday morning. Within five minutes, she was experiencing acute side effects, including heart palpitations, a skin rash, and systolic blood pressure that reached 170 mmHg. The hospital administered emergency treatment of steroids and antihistamines, and the case was transferred to a dedicated intensive care unit. The nurse was discharged from the hospital Thursday morning.

Shih Chung-liang, deputy health chief: The nurse had some allergic reactions. As a precaution, the hospital placed her in intensive care for observation. During that time, her vital signs were very stable. So our preliminary judgment is that this was not in fact a serious adverse reaction.

The hospital said the nurse’s condition was not serious enough to warrant intensive care, but that the hospital wanted to give her the highest standard of care possible. An expert predicts that in this first rollout of 116,500 doses, one or two people out of every 100,000 will experience severe side effects. That would be the normal range, he said.

Huang Li-min, Infectious Diseases Society of Taiwan: Of course, we could end up being unlucky. This first case has shown up very early in the program. Perhaps there won’t be any more severe reactions between now and the 100,000th dose.

Chiu Cheng-hsun, Chang Gung Memorial Hospital in Linkou: There might be one or two out of a million people who experience these so-called severe allergic reactions. Basically, so long as the proper arrangements and treatments are in place for the administration process, there are no real safety concerns.

Looking at the rollout so far, more than 5,000 health care workers have gotten a shot, and a total of nine adverse events have been reported. One of those nine was a serious adverse event. The Central Epidemic Command Center says the nurse involved in the case has a history of allergic reactions to foods and medication. Officials said the vaccine program will continue without adjustment.

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