A Victoria woman who had a severe allergic reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine says she's grateful she is now fully immunized after she received several low-dosage shots instead of a second jab.
Annie Taal says despite her scary initial experience with the vaccine she didn't hesitate to seek out her options for a second dose, and doctors assured her it was possible by injecting her with five small doses over the course of an afternoon.
She says she is sharing her story to encourage people with allergies or pre-existing health conditions to talk to their doctors if they have worries or questions about getting the vaccine.
Taal said she had an anaphylactic reaction to an ingredient in the vaccine just minutes after getting her first shot in late May at the Archie Browning Sports Centre in Esquimalt, B.C.
"About the seven-minute mark I started to feel my throat itching, almost as if I'd eaten too much pineapple core," she said.
"When I got back into my car around the 18-minute mark, I noticed that my face looked like I had a small sunburn ... and my throat was very hoarse and itchy and scratchy."
Taal drove back to the vaccine clinic, where nurses gave her adrenaline to help reverse her symptoms and called for an ambulance. She spent six hours being monitored at the hospital before being released.
Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction to food, medication, or venom from a bee sting, for example.
Public health officials say an anaphylactic reaction to a vaccine is very rare.
"One in 100,000 people will have an anaphylactic response to a COVID vaccine," said Dr. Richard Stanwick, chief medical health officer for Island Health.
Taal says she was determined to become fully vaccinated and discussed her options with doctors following her discharge from hospital.
She booked an appointment with Dr. Scott Cameron, an allergist and immunologist, who lined up five small doses of the COVID-19 vaccine on Sept. 22 in a procedure he termed "graded dose administration."
"This allows their body to get used to the dose we've given them so they don't have a reaction. And the vast majority of patients that undergo this are able to tolerate the vaccine," Cameron said.
Cameron says there are other treatments for people who have had a first dose reaction, including giving them a different type of COVID-19 vaccine for the second dose.
He encourages people worried about adverse reactions to speak to their doctor.
"Driving in your car every day is more risky than going and getting this vaccine. And I really think if worries are stopping you, take a step back and look at that," said Cameron.