Despite a rare allergic reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine, Annie Taal is glad to be vaccinated. (Courtesy of Island Health)

Victoria woman grateful to be vaccinated despite allergic reaction

About one in 100,000 people will have a severe allergic reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine

A rare allergic reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine hasn’t swayed a Victoria woman’s belief in the benefits of vaccinations.

“I have no regrets at all. I really don’t. I was safe and cared for and I personally believe those mechanisms were also in place during the production of the vaccines,” said Annie Taal in a release from Island Health. “I understand the fear and uncertainty many people are feeling – but the fact-based evidence shows us the vaccines are safe and they are the best way for us to move forward through the pandemic.”

First diagnosed with serious allergies as a teenager, Taal, 32, spoke with her doctor and sister, a public health nurse, about whether she should receive the vaccination. They all determined that the risks of COVID far outweighed any risk associated with the vaccine.

Taal received her vaccine at Archie Browning Centre in late May. After the procedure she waited for 15 minutes as recommended, noticing that her mouth felt slightly itchy around the eight-minute mark. She left the facility to drop something off less than a minute away and started to feel unwell.

“I couldn’t take a deep breath. I was winded and felt like I had a sunburn,” she said.

Taal returned to Archie Browning and was taken into a private area where nurses determined she was having an anaphylactic reaction.

“They calmed me down, called my sister and administered epinephrine. Paramedics then took me to Victoria General Hospital for observation.”

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From there, Taal was referred to an immunologist in Victoria to determine if she could receive a second dose of vaccine. They used a technique called graded-dose administration – where the full dose is separated into smaller doses and provided over a span of time with close monitoring – and Taal is now fully vaccinated.

She was also asked to participate in a study of people who have experienced an allergic reaction to a COVID-19 vaccine.

“I am grateful to be part of this study because we really don’t know yet why some people have these rare reactions,” she said. “If I can help just one person feel safer about getting their shot, it will be worth it.”

Dr. Michael Benusic, a medical health officer with Island Health, confirms that a very small number of people will react to the vaccine.

“Severe allergic reactions to COVID-19 vaccines are very rare – about 1 in 100,000 people will react. Our vaccination sites are set up to identify and respond to this when it occurs, which is exactly what happened with this patient,” he said.

Despite being one of those rare cases, Taal said she is happy to now be fully vaccinated.

“I did it to protect the people around me – my mom is a cancer survivor, I have nieces and nephews. I want them to be safe. The longer people wait to get vaccinated, the longer COVID will be with us.”

ALSO READ: COVID-19-related hospital cases continue to rise in B.C.

Dr. Benusic urges anyone who is still on the fence to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

“With the Delta variant, the risk of serious disease from COVID-19 is the highest it’s been,” he said. “Unvaccinated adults make up only 10 per cent of the population in Island Health, but are experiencing the vast majority of COVID-19 hospitalizations, critical care admissions and deaths in critical care.”


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