Workplace Flu Shot Clinic Puts Dozens At Risk For HIV And Hepatitis By Reusing Syringe0
April V. Taylor
Dozens of co-workers who attended a workplace flu shot clinic are now being screened for HIV and hepatitis after the preventative medical procedure that happens at thousands of workplaces across the country took a dangerous turn when a nurse re-used the same syringe to administer the shots to multiple co-workers. The co-workers are employees at Otsuka Pharmaceutical in Princeton, New Jersey who received the vaccination on September 30 and were all warned that they may have been exposed to ‘infected blood’ after a nurse ‘failed to follow proper medical procedures and safeguards.’
The nurse was contracted by healthcare provider TotalWellness.The company, states that it runs onsite flu clinics at various companies to help employers reduce the number of doctor visits and sick days they must allow for staff. They are now offering free blood tests to all affected employees at the West Windsor Township Senior Center in coordination with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Health Department. Retesting must occur again in four to six months before the co-workers can be given a clean bill of health.
The 67 employees received letters from the New Jersey Department of Health two days after they received the flu vaccination warning them that the syringe ‘was reused multiple times.’ While the co-workers were warned quickly of the possible exposure, they now face a possibly months long wait to find out if any serious infections show up in their blood work. The risk of infection is low, but diseases such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV are serious illnesses that all could have been potentially transmitted in the dirty syringe.
The letter specifically stated, “Syringe reuse may have exposed you to infected blood. At this time NJDOH is not ware of any disease transmission, but you may be at risk for developing an infection as a result of this improper practice.” The Department of Health revealed that the nurse did change the needles used between each injection but re-used the same syringe each time. West Windsor Health Officer Jill Swanson reports that both the needle and syringe should be disposed off after each use.
An investigation into the nurse’s actions also revealed that the nurse also gave employees less than the recommended dose of the flu shot, meaning after everything the employees have gone through, they must be vaccinated again in order to be adequately protected against the flu. Officials told employees, “Receiving less than the recommended amount is not harmful, but you might not be fully protected against the flu. We are recommending that you get another flu shot this season to ensure that you are completely protected. There will be flu shots available to you at the testing and vaccination clinic in West Windsor, should you decide to get revaccinated.”
Otsuka Pharmaceutical was unavailable for comment on behalf of their employees. A spokesperson for TotalWellness said that they are “dedicated to ensuring all participants receive any and all appropriate screenings, care and counseling until this matter is resolved.” A phone line has been set up for employees to call with any questions they may have. It is not clear yet whether the nurse will face any disciplilnary action.