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Japanese hospital mistakenly gives saline solution shot instead of COVID-19 vaccine

Head of Ikoma City Hospital Kiyoshi Endo, center, and others apologize for a vaccination mix up, at a press conference at the hospital in Ikoma, Nara Prefecture, on May 12, 2021. (Mainichi/Yusuke Kato)

IKOMA, Nara -- An individual in an April coronavirus vaccination group of 54 that included medical professionals and people aged 85 or older was accidentally given a shot containing only saline solution, a public hospital here announced May 12.

    Ikoma City Hospital in western Japan held a press conference to apologize for the error. It also said that the mistaken injection is unlikely to adversely affect the health of the individual.

    According to the hospital, it held vaccinations between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. on April 28 in its community and assembly space. The plan was to use the saline solution to dilute nine vials of U.S. pharmaceutical company Pfizer Inc.'s vaccine, and transfer the finished mixture into 54 syringes for injection.

    But during the process, a nurse found one Pfizer vial unused, and checks of the syringes showed six of them contained only the saline solution. As a result, they were removed and re-prepared with the vaccine added. Inoculations continued, but after they were completed, there was still one extra syringe containing the vaccine.

    Five nurses were tasked with preparing and administering the shots on the day. The hospital will test the antibody levels of those given shots during the April group vaccination, and the individual with low levels will be re-vaccinated.

    At the May 12 press conference, hospital director Kiyoshi Endo said, "It appears that one of the removed syringes containing only a saline solution was accidentally put back among the syringes containing the vaccine, and used for immunization."

    Ikoma Mayor Masashi Komurasaki said he had ordered thorough measures to avoid a repeat incident, saying on May 12, "This unacceptable accident has brought about a great deal of concern and inconvenience, and I apologize to the people of this city and all related parties for the distress caused."

    (Japanese original by Yusuke Kato, Nara Bureau)

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