California: It's safe to resume Moderna vaccine after illness reports

Moderna Vaccine
Posted at 9:02 PM, Jan 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-21 00:02:17-05

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California on Wednesday said it’s safe to resume using a batch of Moderna coronavirus vaccine after some people fell ill and a halt to injections was recommended.

The decision frees up more than 300,000 doses to counties, cities and hospitals struggling to obtain supplies. The state Department of Public Health on Sunday urged a pause in the use of a specific lot after fewer than 10 people who received shots at a San Diego vaccination site needed medical care, possibly due to rare but severe allergic reactions.

But after a safety review and consultation with Moderna and local and federal health agencies, the state “found no scientific basis to continue the pause” and said vaccinations can “immediately resume,” state epidemiologist Dr. Eric Pan said in a statement.

“These findings should continue to give Californians confidence that vaccines are safe and effective, and that the systems put in place to ensure vaccine safety are rigorous and science-based,” Pan said, adding that some of her own family members had received it.

About 330,000 doses from the lot had been distributed to nearly 300 providers in California this month. Most had halted using it until receiving the all-clear.

Cheryl Brennan of Fallbrook was among those who fell ill shortly after being injected last week at Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres.

“At 18 minutes, it was like my throat started closing,” she told KSWB-TV. “My blood pressure went to 185 over 125, which I guess is very life-threatening.” Help came immediately.

“They hooked up electrodes. They put ice packs on me. I had four EMTs and two nurses helping me and they brought my blood pressure back down within 45 minutes,” Brennan said.

Brennan also said despite the reaction, she plans to return next month for a second dose. The vaccine requires two shots for full immunization.

“I will still absolutely, positively go,” Brennan said. “My opinion, if I get COVID, I would probably have a lot worse reactions than just having those issues … And my husband has underlying health conditions, so it’s worth taking that chance.”

The release of the Moderna doses comes as California officials struggle to meet the challenge of vaccinating all those awaiting them, including millions of people 65 and older who recently were added to the eligibility list behind health care workers and people in nursing care homes.

California, with 40 million people, is only getting 400,000 to 500,000 doses of vaccine in a good week and it could take four to five months just to complete vaccinations for those 65 and older, Pan said during a state vaccine advisory committee meeting, according to the Sacramento Bee.

Despite such concerns, large counties have been opening up more mass vaccination sites as they struggle with an unprecedented demand. Officials are pinning their hopes on President Joe Biden’s promise to ramp up resources for vaccination.