New Jersey

Nurse Reuses Syringe While Giving Flu Shots to Patients at NJ Clinic: Officials

Alerts were sent to dozens of employees of a pharmaceutical company after officials say a nurse reused a syringe while giving them flu shots at a New Jersey clinic.

Officials with TotalWellness told NBC10 a nurse they contracted to administer flu vaccinations to 67 employees of Otsuka Pharmaceutical “failed to follow proper medical procedures and safeguards.” They released the following statement:

On September 30, 2015, TotalWellness was alerted that a nurse it had contracted to administer flu vaccinations to 67 employees for an employer group in New Jersey failed to follow proper medical procedures and safeguards to properly administer vaccinations to potentially all 67 participants.

TotalWellness, the employer group, and the New Jersey Department of Health are proactively working together to inform all participants and provide them the necessary resources and a plan to mitigate any potential medical concerns and exposure risks.

TotalWellness is dedicated to ensuring all participants receive any and all appropriate screenings, care and counseling until this matter is resolved.

The flu shots were given to employees at the Otsuka Pharmaceutical offices on the 500 block of Carnegie Center in West Windsor, New Jersey, back on Sept. 30. In a letter to an Otsuka employee obtained by NBC10, an NJ Department of Health official states the nurse who administered the flu shots reused the syringe.

“The needles were changed between each patient but the syringe was reused multiple times,” the official wrote. “Syringe reuse may have exposed you to infected blood. At this time NJDOH is not aware of any disease transmission, but you may be at risk for developing an infection as a result of this improper practice.”

Officials say that the risk for infection is “low;” however, they are still recommending that the employees undergo testing for hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV.

The Health Department, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and TotalWellness offered free blood tests to all of the employees. The tests took place Monday and Tuesday at the West Windsor Township Senior Center on 271 Clarksville Road in West Windsor, NJ. Officials also say the employees will need to be re-tested in four to six months since viruses can take time to show up in blood tests.

In addition to reusing the syringes, officials also say the nurse gave a dose of the flu vaccine that was less than recommended. As a result, they advised that the employees get another flu shot.

“Receiving less than the recommended amount is not harmful, but you might not be fully protected against the flu,” the officials wrote. “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.”

Officials also set up a phone line for the employees to call with questions.

Officials have not revealed the nurse's identity but say he or she was licensed by the New Jersey Board of Nursing. A spokesperson for the Board of Nursing told NBC10 no disciplinary action has been taken yet but the incident is still under investigation.

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