It had been seven minutes since 32-year-old Annie Taal had gotten her first shot of COVID-19 vaccine.
She was sitting outside of the Archie Browning Centre, waiting the recommended 15 minutes.
“I had started to feel a little bit of itching in my throat, almost like when you eat a little bit of pineapple,” Taal said.
But she thought nothing of it, dismissing it as irritation from her mask and excitement over receiving the first dose.
Taal snapped a quick selfie, waited the remaining eight minutes, then left to go run a quick errand around the corner. It wasn’t until Taal got back into her car after she had finished, that she began to realize something was off.
“I got back into my car and it looked like I had a big sunburn on my face and my throat was starting to swell up,” Taal said. “I just autopiloted back to Archie Browning.”
By the time she got back to the centre, she couldn’t speak and the nurses determined she was having an anaphylactic reaction.
The nurses administered epinephrine and paramedics took Taal to the Victoria General Hospital for observation.
“Severe allergic reactions to COVID-19 vaccines are very rare – about 1 in 100,000 people will react,” said medical health officer Dr. Michael Benusic, in a press release.
“Our vaccination sites are set up to identify and respond to this when it occurs, which is exactly what happened with this patient. We also have a great team of immunologists who determine if vaccines can be safely provided after this occurs.”
Taal saw an allergist after her adverse reaction and through a test, discovered she was allergic to the mRNA vaccine.
“I’ve had flu shots, I’ve had my HPV vaccine, I’ve had travel vaccinations and I’ve never had any worries with any vaccine,” Taal said, adding that she has had serious allergies since she was a kid.
But even with that knowledge, Taal didn’t hesitate to get her second shot.
“I survived the first one so even if the worst happened again, I was [still] going to get my second vaccine,” she said, adding, “For me, it was much more important to be vaccinated than unvaccinated. I’m much more worried about the symptoms and the effects of COVID than I am from an allergic reaction.”
Taal received her second shot in September at an allergist’s clinic. They gave her a diluted form of the vaccine: Five microdoses, administered 15 minutes apart.
She says she felt safe and well taken care of during the whole process. Taal hopes by sharing her story, others might feel reassured or inspired to get vaccinated as well.
“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,” she said. “The longer people wait to get vaccinated, the longer COVID will be with us.”