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SWPH say saline solution vaccine mistake was detected after their supply was checked on Nov. 30

A health worker prepares to administer the COVID-19 booster vaccine. Dinendra Haria/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Officials with Southwestern Public Health are sharing more details about how some people got injected with saline solution instead of a COVID-19 booster shot at a St. Thomas vaccine clinic last month.

On Tuesday, Global News learned that up to six people may have received a dose of saline solution instead of COVID-19 vaccine at a mass vaccination clinic in St. Thomas, Ont., on Nov. 30.

The health unit says 257 people attended the clinic that day but only a maximum of six people received the saline. However, the health unit is not sure which six individuals are impacted.

“No need for anyone to get worried, we always audit the vaccine that we have administered at the end of every day, the Pfizer vaccine is always mixed with a bit of saline by someone who properly loads the syringes,” Dr. Joyce Lock, medical officer of health for SWPH.

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Lock said the mistake was detected on Nov. 30, but that after consulting with Public Health Ontario they decided to wait until people would be eligible for another shot before informing them of the error.

Saline solution is not harmful to humans and is made from a mix of salt and water.

Although she said there is no risk to getting a fourth shot, it is recommended that people wait for at least 21 days between doses.

“I am really upset about it that it took 20 days,” said a resident who received a call they were impacted by the mistake. The resident wished to remain anonymous to avoid any backlash over speaking out.
 
The person, who is in their 70s, said they called a neighbour who got the booster shot the same day —  a neighbour who was informed five days before they were.
 
“I am concerned that it happened at all, and there has to be a way of keeping track of where the saline is and where the vaccines are.”

When asked if the mixup could have been internal, Locke emphasized that this situation is being treated as an accident.

“We are putting a lot of people through our mass immunization centres and people were doing the same task over and over, so sometimes that is a setup for an error to occur,” Lock said.

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To ensure another mistake like this does not happen again, Lock noted they have made a number of changes like rotating people around more so they do not get tired and checking their supply every few hours instead of once a day.

“We have now looked very carefully at our procedures to ensure this does not happen again.”

SWPH has contacted everyone at the clinic that day and is leaving it up to patients to determine if they want to come in for another booster shot.

Lock noted they asked each patient series of screening questions to try and determine if they had any more vaccine side effects to see if they were properly vaccinated.

— with files from Global News’ Jacquelyn LeBel

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