Iowa corrections officials are monitoring 77 inmates at a maximum-security prison for adverse reactions after they were inadvertently given up to six times the normal dosage of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine.
Two nurses at the penitentiary in Fort Madison, Iowa, incorrectly administered the vaccine, according to a statement by the prison on Thursday. The incident occurred on Tuesday, leading to a pause in vaccinations at the prison after the two staffers were placed on temporary leave.
Iowa Department of Corrections spokesman Cord Overton told the Des Moines Register that most of the affected inmates had only minor symptoms like those associated with normal doses of the vaccine, such as sore arms and body aches. At least one prisoner suffered a fever, which was treatable with Tylenol.
Prison officials sought guidance from experts at the CDC, Pfizer and the University of Iowa, who recommended that the inmates be monitored for at least 48 hours. Kimberly Koehlhoeffer, the mother of an inmate, told the Register that her son and other prisoners had other reactions, such as nausea and severe dehydration.
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The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine comes frozen and is packaged in concentrated form, so it's diluted with saline before the Covid-19 jabs are administered. State officials didn't give a specific explanation as to how the inmates were overdosed, but it's possible that the shots were given without the vaccine being diluted.
All Iowa adults became eligible to receive Covid-19 inoculations on April 5, after the state worked through giving shots to at-risk groups. About 200 at-risk inmates were given jabs in January, but the prison system didn't start getting vaccine allotments again until earlier this month. The state has about 7,600 people incarcerated. Two prison staffers and 19 inmates have reportedly died from Covid-19 since the pandemic began.
Over 28 percent of all Iowans have been fully vaccinated. About 15% of prisoners have had at least one Covid-19 shot.
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