Some people went to a grocery store to get the COVID vaccine. Instead, they were jabbed with an empty syringe

kroger covid vaccine virginia
Photo via Virginia Retail/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

A concerning report from several news outlets, including NBC12 in Richmond, Virginia, disclosed that “a small number of people” who went to a Kroger pharmacy expecting to get Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 single-dose vaccines “ended up getting an ‘empty syringe’ after the company previously said it was a saline shot.” 

According to the March 10 report, the grocery store company claimed the mix-up was an “honest mistake,” adding, “All impacted customers were contacted and have now received the COVID-19 vaccine. We apologize for this oversight and the inconvenience caused for these customers.”

NBC12 contacted one of those customers, Carrie Hawes, who upon being notified that she hadn’t actually received the vaccine she thought she’d received said, “My initial reaction was shock and surprise, and a little anxiety.”

She did, however, return to the Kroger location for her actual COVID vaccine. 

“They were very clear with me when we went in,” she said, highlighting her excitement. “They showed us the vial to make sure it was Johnson & Johnson, pulled out the vaccine, she showed me again.”

Hawes said she hopes her experience doesn’t keep people from reconsidering vaccination. 

“Yes, it’s unfortunate that a mistake happened, but it was a small number of people. The situation was fixed,” said Hawes. “I get that it’s been a long year and there isn’t a lot of trust sometimes in our systems and the process, but I think everyone has the best intentions and the end result is to get as many people as we can vaccinated, as quickly as we can so we can all be protective of our community.”

As the News & Observer reported, it adds to a small but notable list of vaccination-related errors that have occurred since widespread COVID-19 inoculations began. 

“Back in December, shortly after the first vaccine shipments began arriving in the U.S., West Virginia officials reported 42 people who lined up for the Moderna vaccine were mistakenly injected with Regeneron antibody treatment,” the article noted, citing McClatchy News.

It added, “In late February, a 91-year-old Ohio man was hospitalized after being vaccinated twice in the same day. He was given two doses of Moderna’s vaccine just four hours apart, which sent him into respiratory distress, but he ultimately recovered.” 

Kroger’s statement noted that all of the people who received the empty syringe were contacted and got their doses. “This was immediately addressed with the TLC team,” the statement read, “and all vaccinators were retrained and reminded of our current vaccination policies. We are working closely with the Virginia Department of Health on this matter.” 

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Sources: NBC12, Raleigh News & Observer

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