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Arkansas woman shares rare allergic reaction to COVID-19 vaccine, still advocates for it

Kendall Case, 23, was determined to be fully vaccinated despite having an allergic reaction. (Photo: J & J vaccine reaction, KATV)
Kendall Case, 23, was determined to be fully vaccinated despite having an allergic reaction. (Photo: J & J vaccine reaction, KATV)
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An allergic reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine led to one Arkansas woman being intubated for seven days.

According to the CDC, just two to five people per million vaccinated in the U.S. experience anaphylaxis.

Kendall Case, 23, was determined to be fully vaccinated despite having an allergic reaction to the first dose of the Moderna vaccine. She followed the CDC's guidelines that recommend taking the Johnson & Johnson shot after a reaction.

While she said it was a frightening experience, she's still an advocate for the vaccine.

“[I had a] rash that developed on my chest. Over the next two hours of being in the E.R., it then started going down my shoulders and then all the way down my back," said Case.

Case received the Moderna vaccine back in March but two hours post-injection she had a reaction.

“A little bit of a rash here, throat was kind of sore, I just really didn't feel right. Then four hours in, I started having classic symptoms of anaphylaxis, called my mom, she ran in there - gave me my EpiPen and we went straight to the hospital," she described.

Case stayed overnight in the hospital, then went home experiencing low blood pressure. Two days later, she said she fell, blacked out, and returned to the hospital.

"I stayed at the hospital for five days because my blood pressure was uncontrolled, it was just too low, every time I would stand up - I would pass out," she said.

Despite this, she was determined to get fully vaccinated.

“I got in contact with my pharmacist and we started doing our own research," said Case.

Her pharmacist Phillip Judd filed a report with the CDC’s Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System also known as VAERS.

“Kendall was determined, she knew she wanted to be vaccinated, she got the Moderna, she had a bad reaction, she waited several months,” said Judd.

Through research with her pharmacist, consultations with doctors, and per the CDC's recommendation, in August she received the J & J vaccine.

“Within that 15-minute range, she could tell something wasn't right and she stayed for a little bit longer and then her mom ended up taking her to the Heart Hospital right up the road,” Judd said.

Judd added that this was the first time he had seen a reaction like this one.

“I started to go into anaphylaxis shock - my mom was there with me - I had my EpiPen ready. We were prepared if something happened, hoping it wouldn't because it wasn't supposed to compare to statistics and ingredients - everything we thought,” said Case.

Little did she know, she would become a rare statistic.

Per the CDC, two to five people per million vaccinated in the U.S. experience anaphylaxis after a COVID-19 vaccine.

“This is when the reaction started going down my back before my throat fully closed up and I was intubated," she said. “Seven days later, I woke up, I had been fully intubated for seven days and I have never been on life support before. I was so confused, I had no idea what was going on."

“Around day five I spiked almost 104 fever - they weren't sure what they were going to do - I developed pneumonia over the days, I was having some other issues with my lungs,” she said.

According to the CDC and their VAERS data 3,346 adverse cases have been reported in Arkansas.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Jennifer Dillaha told KATV most cases reported are mild.

“We strongly encourage anyone to report something unexpected even though it might be mild and so for example some people who ringing of the ears we encourage that to be reported because it's unusual,” said Dr. Dillaha.

While she cannot comment on this specific case, Dr. Dillaha added there are ingredients in vaccines that could cause an allergic reaction.

“The Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines have something we call PEG, which is Polyethylene Glycol, it's in other medications too and so in order for someone to have an allergic reaction they have to have been exposed beforehand to set up the allergy,” she explained.

“Sometimes people have been exposed before through other medications, but they didn't react to it and then they get the Moderna or Pfizer and do have a reaction to it."

Dr. Dillaha added that it’s possible to also have an allergic reaction to polysorbate which is an ingredient in the J & J vaccine.

Despite this experience, Case still recommends people to get the vaccine.

“Absolutely. Absolutely. I think everyone should get the vaccine, I think that it is saving lives. I think that my case was very rare, I don't know how rare because statistics change every day, but I think it's important to get my story out there because there are going to be other people like me. I don't know who - I didn't know it was going to be me."

Kendall’s mom told KATV when her daughter woke up, the first question she asked was, 'Am I fully vaccinated yet?'

Her pharmacist also confirmed that Kendall continues to be an advocate for the vaccine and brings her friends to the pharmacy to get vaccinated.

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