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Why were people given saline instead of Covid vaccine in South Carolina?

A limited number of people received only saline shots instead of the covid-19 vaccine in South Carolina. They were contacted and given the proper dose.

A limited number of people received only saline shots instead of the covid-19 vaccine in South Carolina. They were contacted and given the proper dose.

More than 180 million doses of covid-19 vaccine have been administered in the US but a small number of individuals were originally given a saline-only jab by mistake. Those individuals were contacted once the mistake was discovered and given the proper dose of the vaccine.

The most recent example comes from South Carolina, but other cases of the mix-up have been reported in North Carolina and in Ontario. Saline solution, which is just salt and water, is used to dilute the covid-19 vaccine prior to use. A saline-only shot should not cause any adverse effects but should not have happened and where it has occurred a review is ongoing to prevent it from happening again.

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A “very limited” number of people given saline-only shots

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) acknowledged that officials were aware of a “very limited number” of instances where individuals were given covid-19 shots absent the actual vaccine. The acknowledgement came after WCSC received a report from one of its viewers that days after she received her second dose of Pfizer vaccine, she was told by the pharmacy that administered the jab that it had not been “activated.”

She was told to return to the pharmacy in Summerville, South Carolina, outside of Charleston, so that the covid-19 vaccine could be re-administered. Saline is used as a diluent when administering the Pfizer vaccine and should be harmless.

In response to WCSC’s inquiries into the matter Laura Renwick, spokesperson for SCDHEC, gave the following statement "DHEC has received a very limited number of reports of 'diluent only' administrations since December 2020. In each case that DHEC has become aware of, the provider has addressed this on an individual level with each recipient to appropriately re-administer vaccine."

“The customer told me that she was mostly frustrated because it meant another week of waiting until she would be fully protected from the coronavirus”

Lisa Weismann

Reports of saline-only shots in North Carolina and Canada

The few individuals that had to go back to get the “activated” dose of their covid-19 vaccine in South Carolina are not alone. In April there were separate reports from both North Carolina and Canada.

A North Carolina Walgreens in March gave 22 people at one Monroe County location a saline injection. As in South Carolina the individuals affected were contacted by the pharmacy and were given the covid-19 vaccine as soon as they could return. Walgreens said in a statement “It’s also very important to note there is no reason to believe there is harm to any of these patients. We continue to strengthen our operating procedures and are committed to this not occurring again.”

Another episode of failing to mix the covid-19 vaccine into the saline diluent occurred at the end of March in Ontario, Cannada. Six people who had their shot administered to them at an immunization clinic north of Toronto received saline-only jabs. Staff at the pharmacy realized the mistake at the end of the day when there was too much vaccine left over according to two of the people affected.


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