An Edmonton family is asking for more accountability, after their 91-year-old matriarch received a first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at a supportive living site and then several weeks later, a dose of the Moderna vaccine at a care home.
“We were dumfounded,” said Earl Alanko, whose mother Gwen received the two different vaccines.
“Did you not check her records? And the answer was, that the person said that I had told them that my mom had not had the shot. And I never told anybody anything.”
Gwen, who has dementia, had been living at the Country Cottage Retirement Residence in Sherwood Park, where documents provided to Global News by the family show she received her first dose of the Pfizer vaccination there on Jan. 14.
She was then moved into to the Shepherd’s Care Foundation Millwoods long-term care facility on Jan. 25.
At Shepherd’s Care, documents show she then received the Moderna vaccine on Jan. 29.
Alanko says his mother is currently in hospital, where she was taken for care on Feb. 1. He says the family wasn’t told that she had accidentally received two different vaccines until Feb. 2.
“This should not have happened,” Alanko said.
Dr. Stephanie Smith, an infectious diseases physician, said while there is limited data on situations like this, she doesn’t believe the two vaccines could have created a bad reaction.
“I think there’s very little harm that would be done by having these two different vaccines two weeks apart,” she said. “They’re very similar vaccines in terms of how they work.
“I think there’s little data around giving two vaccines, but I think the good thing about this situation is that they’re both mRNA vaccines, so it’s not like you’re mixing two different types of vaccines.
“These vaccines are very safe and effective,” Smith said, adding she believes it’s likely the two different vaccines could still create a “reasonably good immune response” against COVID-19.
Shepherd’s Care told Global News that it did not receive any documentation that indicated Gwen had received any first dose of a vaccine.
“The transferring organization did not provide any information about the resident receiving her Pfizer immunization prior to leaving that facility,” said Lynn Haugen with the Shepherd’s Care Foundation.
A representative from Country Cottage told Global News that the initial vaccination records for Gwen were added to her online records and that they were never contacted by Shepherd’s Care about Gwen’s vaccination.
Haugen added that checking a patient’s online MyHealth Records “has not been part of usual process” at Shepherd’s Care.
Alberta Health Services told Global News there are “processes in place” to make sure care sites are aware of immunization statuses for residents, but that it is “up to the continuing care site to ensure that they follow this process, and that a resident’s immunization status is known before they are administered the COVID-19 vaccine.”
AHS also said it is aware of Gwen’s situation, and that the processes were put in place at the end of January “to alert sites of a resident’s vaccine standing when being admitted or transferred to a new site.”
‘She did not refuse the injection’: Shepherd’s Care
Haugen also said staff at Shepherd’s Care contacted Alanko to get his verbal permission to administer the dose to his mother, although he insists that did not happen.
“There was very little communication once my mom got into the facility,” Alanko said. “We need to know what steps were taken.”
Gwen herself also did not deny the Moderna shot offered to her at Shepherd’s Care, Haugen said.
“The resident is legally her own decision maker, and did provide consent in that she did not refuse the injection,” she said.
“Because somebody has dementia doesn’t mean that they can’t respond for themselves. And the staff would have said: ‘Gwen, we’re here this morning to provide you with your COVID vaccine. Are you consenting?’
“And she obviously didn’t say: ‘No, you can’t give that to me,'” Haugen said.
“Just because we have dementia doesn’t mean that people don’t have choice.”
For Alanko, he says he and his family want an investigation and are hoping to prevent this from happening again.
“We should have had checks and balances in place to avoid this particular situation, especially with an elderly person,” he said. “We don’t need this at this stage of her life.
“It’s better to be safe than sorry, and right now we’re very, very sorry for how my mom is.”