Dozens may have been under-vaccinated in Port Townsend error

People who received doses March 4 can be tested to see if they have the proper antibodies.

PORT TOWNSEND — Up to 36 Jefferson County residents were mistakenly administered less COVID-19 vaccine than intended last week.

The error Thursday prompted an apology from Jefferson Healthcare hospital’s chief executive officer and plans to administer antibody-tests to 150 vaccine recipients, a third of whom could receive third doses.

“We apologize for the inconvenience and concern this has caused our patients,” CEO Mike Glenn said Saturday in a prepared statement.

“Holding the trust of our community is not only our aspiration but our highest priority.

“We feel the plan Drs. [Joseph] Mattern and [Tom] Locke have put in place to address the incident is the right approach, and places the safety and health of our patients first.”

Mattern is the public hospital’s chief medical officer and Locke the county health officer.

The publicly run hospital announced Friday in a press release the inadequate shots, known as underdoses, were administered between 8:30 a.m. and noon when 150 patients were vaccinated with their first dose of a two-dose process at the hospital’s drive-through immunization clinic in Port Townsend.

Up to 36 patients were affected when six vials of saline solution and vaccine, each capable of providing six doses, were found later Thursday to have contained less vaccine than required for a full vaccination yet were still administered, Yaley said Saturday.

Properly mixed vials and vials with too little vaccine were placed side by side. with some not correctly disposed of or marked, making vials that were properly mixed indistinguishable from those with too much saline, she said.

It was impossible to determine which 36 people among those vaccinated received lesser doses, so all 150 were invited to receive free antibody testing when they receive their second doses in less than three weeks.

If the antibody test indicates immunity activity, the patient received a proper dose, Yaley said in the press release.

If it does not, the patient likely did not receive a proper dose and will receive a third dose in 21 more days, Yaley said.

“Patients did receive the vaccine, but they received diluted amounts of vaccine,” she said Saturday.

“One person deviated from the normal pattern. Further investigation will occur to explore why this employee changed regular procedure. From there we will make a decision on next steps. I can’t imagine this person feels too awesome right now.”

To prevent a similar occurrence, the hospital has moved the vaccine-drawing procedure out of an outbuilding in the hospital parking lot and established it in an isolated area where there are no distractions, Yaley said.

“There’s more room to spread out, and we’ve created more structure around it,” she said, adding the correct protocol has been emphasized to the vaccination workers.

Yaley said the error was discovered at noon Thursday at the end the first round of vaccinations when staff realized there were remaining vaccine vials that should have been used up given the number of shots administered.

The Pfizer vaccine used by the hospital is not premixed, unlike the Moderna and soon-to-arrive Johnson & Johnson vaccine, Locke said Saturday.

This story originally appeared in the Peninsula Daily News, a sister publication to The Herald.

Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski contributed to this report.

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