17 March 2021

Anaphylactic reactions to COVID-19 vaccines in Western Australia

As Western Australia’s Chief Health Officer, I would like to provide an update on the vaccination program with a particular focus on safety and side effects.

There is a wealth of safety data globally and we have now vaccinated more than 22,000 people in Western Australia.

Overnight, information has come to light about four cases of people potentially experiencing anaphylactic reactions (severe allergic reaction) within 30 minutes of receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine in Queensland, which have been reported to the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).

Since commencing the COVID vaccination program, the WA Vaccine Safety Advisory Committee has received reports of two individuals treated with adrenaline for an allergic reaction following COVID vaccination – one after receipt of the Pfizer vaccine, of which we have administered 13,292 doses, and one after AstraZeneca vaccine, of which 9,652 doses have been administered.  Both have a history of previous allergic reactions and both individuals responded well to a single dose of adrenaline and recovered under observation without further incident. 

As is the case for all suspected adverse events following immunisation reported to the WA Vaccine Safety Surveillance system, these episodes have been forwarded on to the TGA so they can contribute to vaccine safety monitoring at a national level.

All vaccination clinics in WA are well equipped to deal with adverse reactions should they occur and any person reported as having a suspected allergic reaction after COVID vaccination is offered clinical assessment by expert immunologists to determine optimal management going forward.

Further to the Queensland notifications, the TGA has released a statement (external site). It is conducting a comprehensive analysis of information from the use of COVID-19 vaccines in Australia to date to confirm that the rate of anaphylaxis observed in Australia is consistent with the expected rate.

The initial review is that both vaccines should continue to be administered as per TGA-approved Product Information, which the Western Australian COVID-19 vaccination program follows.

Common side effects of the COVID-19 vaccination include fever, chills, fatigue and body aches; these symptoms usually last 1-2 days and taking Paracetamol can reduce the severity of these symptoms in most cases.

As a precaution, all persons are asked to wait at the clinic for 15 minutes after vaccine administration so they can be observed for possible reactions, and if the individual has a history of severe allergies the observation period is extended to 30 minutes.

There are stringent vaccine safety monitoring and reporting processes (external site) in place across Australia to detect and respond to any vaccination safety concerns and our clinic staff are well aware of how to manage and report any suspected adverse events.

I want to reassure all Western Australians that the COVID vaccines being used in Australia are safe and effective and will help protect you, your family and more vulnerable members of our community from serious illness caused by COVID-19.

Dr Andrew Robertson
Chief Health Officer

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