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There is a way to safely get a 2nd COVID vaccine dose after an allergic reaction

Beth Adams

True allergic reactions to vaccinations are extremely rare, but two local women did experience this after receiving their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Allergists at Rochester Regional Health were able to safely administer their second vaccine doses by following a special procedure.
Meaghan de Chateauvieux received her first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at a Monroe County clinic in mid-January.

Fifteen minutes following the injection, she was told she could go home.

"And I said, 'I don't really think so,' " she recalled.

Her whole body was itching and hives broke out on her arms, chest and face.

"I had the strangest feeling like my tongue was metallic...just a strange feeling like something wasn't right,” she explained.

De Chateauvieux was experiencing a rare and severe allergic reaction to the vaccine. It happens only two to four times for every million doses that are administered. She was taken to a hospital emergency department, where her symptoms subsided in a couple of hours.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises people who have had a severe allergic reaction to a COVID-19 vaccine not to get a second dose, but de Chateauvieux, president and CEO of Willow Domestic Violence Center, was still committed to being fully vaccinated.

"I am in the field and with the public very often and with vulnerable populations,” she said. “So, (I need) to be protected myself and protect them so I'm not spreading COVID to anyone unawares."

She was referred to Dr. S. Shahzad Mustafa, at Rochester Regional Health.

He first did a skin test to confirm that de Chateauvieux had a true allergic reaction to the vaccine. The raised bumps on her arms indicated that she had.

Credit Beth Adams / WXXI News
Dr. S. Shahzad Mustafa is an allergy specialist at Rochester Regional Health.

Through a desensitization protocol, Mustafa was able to administer a second vaccine dose to de Chateauvieux and to a nurse who also had a severe immune reaction to her first dose.

He did this by splitting that second dose into five separate injections, given 15 to 20 minutes apart, monitoring closely for any adverse reaction.

The first injection contained a very small amount of the vaccine.  Each subsequent dose was increased.  The concept is the same as immunotherapy treatments for allergy sufferers.

"The down side is five shots over a couple of hours,” Mustafa said. “The upside is you get vaccinated and there's no reason to believe the effectiveness would be any different."

To be certain, both women will be tested for COVID-19 antibodies to confirm whether they now have sufficient immunity to the virus.

As rare and unexpected a true allergic reaction to a vaccine is, Mustafa encourages anyone who experiences this with their first COVID-19 vaccine dose to consult with their health care provider to see if a follow up with an allergist is warranted.

"This pandemic has affected us all,” he said. “So every person that's vaccinated, I think that's one step closer out of this."

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