A pharmacy in Virginia’s Loudoun County administered an incorrect dosage of a coronavirus vaccine to more than 100 children between 5 and 11 years old earlier this month, according to the county health department.
Dr. David Goodfriend, the county’s health director, said Ted Pharmacy in Aldie took a diluted dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine approved for ages 12 and up and administered it to the younger children on Nov. 3 and Nov. 4. The approved dosage for people ages 12 and up is 30 micrograms, but for children between 5 and 11 years old is only 10 micrograms.
Ted Pharmacy, which had not yet received the pediatric doses at the time, chose to use a smaller amount of the adult/adolescent dosage approved for people ages 12 and up, according to Goodfriend.
From his understanding, he said, the pharmacy attempted to give the children the 10-microgram dosage by diluting the 30-microgram doses to .01 milliliters, which would equal 10 micrograms, but whether those children actually got that full amount is in question.
“What licensed professionals should do is only administer medications in accordance with what they are approved for … and this formulation was only approved for people 12 and older,” he said. “So it should not have been given to people under [the] age of 12.”
A concerned parent alerted the health department, which began an investigation.
“In this case, fortunately, the parent notified the health department,” Goodfriend said. “At the time that the health department was notified, from then on, no additional children were vaccinated with the adult product.”
Goodfriend said there are not any concerns about the children’s safety since the active ingredient in the adult dosage of the vaccine is the same as the one in the pediatric dosage.
Though the affected children did not receive a higher dosage than they should have, the pharmacy nevertheless broke protocol and subsequently is no longer approved to administer vaccines, authorities said.
Goodfriend emphasized that those children should get their second dose regardless and that parents concerned that their child did not receive an adequate dosage should consult a medical professional about whether to restart the vaccination process. Those children would have to wait 21 days after the initial dose before getting their second shot and talk to their medical provider about the next steps and the possibility of needing a third shot.
“If a parent thinks their child may not have gotten the full first dose, that’s where the recommendation is for them to consider restarting the vaccination series,” he said. “Really, it would just be a delay of 21 days for them.”
Goodfriend said such an incident is unlikely to recur now that more locations have the approved pediatric doses.
Vaccinations for children between 5 and 11 years old began in earnest nationwide after the Food and Drug Administration gave emergency-use authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for that age group on Oct. 29 and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made a formal recommendation four days later.
Though hundreds of thousands of eligible children have since been vaccinated without incident, a handful of similar administration errors have cropped up, including in Montgomery County, Maryland, where nearly 100 elementary school students were also given an incorrect dosage last week.