Fired after taking vaccines for family

Two American pharmacists have had their employment terminated after one took home COVID-19 vaccines and gave them to family members

US media are reporting on the case of two pharmacists from the Memorial Health System, one of whom reportedly “diverted” two doses of the vaccine.

According to reporters Lisa Schencker and Joe Mahr at the Chicago Tribune, one of the pharmacists, who worked at Decatur Memorial Hospital in Decatur, an Illinois city, inappropriately mixed doses of the vaccine in December.

According to WCIA, a hospital spokesperson said the pharmacist used pooling to gain a new dose after mixing the remnants of more than one vial, and so had not actually diverted a dose away from the general public.

The Tribune reports that Heidi Clark, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the state health department, told federals in a January 2021 email that the pharmacist “took doses home at the end of the day and administered to her family” and “pooled doses in the Pfizer vials to draw more vaccine beyond six doses”.

The paper obtained the emails through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The pharmacist’s family were not eligible to receive the vaccine in December, when the action took place.

Angie Muhs, a spokeswoman for Memorial Health System, told the Tribune that an investigation “determined there was no issue of safety or loss of efficacy with the vaccinations”.

US Food and Drug Administration rules prohibit pharmacists from pooling excess Pfizer vaccine from vials due to fears of contamination. Any excess vaccine must be discarded.

Meanwhile WCIA spoke to Dick’s Pharmacy pharmacist Cindi Reed, who was critical of the time frame of the rollout and said she did not “fault them for what they did”.

Illinois Pharmacists Association Executive Director Garth Reynolds told the outlet that, “I know there’s been some recent news and some suggestions from those in the pharmacy profession to encourage the pooling of vaccines, but the FDA’s current stance is that does not occur for the COVID-19 vaccines”.

“If you’re pooling doses together from multiple viles or residuals from multiple viles, you could be getting more dilutant and not as much of the vaccine,” he said.

While outlets have inquired why the second pharmacist’s employment was terminated, they do not yet have an answer.

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