NJ Nurse's Flu Shot Snafu Turns Dangerous When 67 People Are Stuck With Reused Syringes

Vaccine shot
A NJ nurse has agreed to temporarily give up her license after it was discovered she exposed 67 people to reused syringes as she gave them their flu shot. PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Image

It’s a vaccination blunder that was thankfully discovered.

The New Jersey Department of Health announced Wednesday that a nurse contracted by the company TotalWellness had exposed 67 employees of Ostuka Pharmaceutical to reused syringes of the flu vaccine while she worked at the workplace's flu clinic on Sept. 30. They are currently in the midst of a joint investigation with the West Windsor Township Health Department as well as TotalWellness into the incident.

Health officials said that though the risk of accidental infection is low — since only syringes, and not needles, were reused — they are still reaching out to those affected and advising that they be tested for common blood-borne disease such as hepatitis B and C, and HIV. It is believed that she used a total of two syringes during her day's work. 

Several individuals have already submitted to testing and additional flu shots, since the nurse reportedly also underdosed patients, according to The Washington Post.

TotalWellness, for their part, hasn’t shied away from the spotlight of scrutiny.

“We take full responsibility for this incident and are working diligently with the New Jersey Department of Health to resolve this matter as swiftly as possible,” said founder and President Alan Kohll in a statement released Wednesday. “Our sincerest apologies go out to all those affected by this terrible event. Our commitment and dedication to our clients, stakeholders, and communities are stronger than ever.”

In the wake of the incident, the company announced Wednesday that it would implement new changes in its vaccination procedure, providing participants with an outline of the whole process alongside their consent form as well as requiring nurses to “walk” them through it verbally.

The nurse, an independent contractor, is currently being investigated by the state’s Board of Nursing. As reported by NJ.com, the nurse, since identified as Mary Roback, has agreed to a temporary suspension of her license while the board deliberates whether to pursue further action on a complaint filed to them by the N.J. Department of Health. She is a LPN, or Licensed Practical Nurse. 

Human error is regrettably a potential risk involved in vaccination, with consequences that can be disastrous. Last September, a measles vaccination campaign in Syria led to the deaths of 15 children, and many more injured, after a muscle relaxant was mistakenly mixed into the vaccine.

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