‘I Don't Know What to Think': Boston Man Injected With Saline Instead of COVID Vaccine

Thelbert Foster, Jr., says he got a phone call from a nurse Monday telling him there had been a mix up and he had been injected with saline instead of the Pfizer vaccine

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A Boston man says he is frustrated after a vaccine "mix up" over the weekend at a pop-up clinic in the city.

“I still don’t understand how they could make this mistake,” Thelbert Foster, Jr., of Roxbury, said Tuesday.



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After being extremely hesitant to get the COVID vaccine, Foster finally rolled up his sleeve for the first shot Saturday at a pop-up clinic at Ramsay Park run by Harvard Street Neighborhood Health Clinic.

“I took the vaccine and I was happy that it was over, and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was,” said Foster, “but then again now to find out that it wasn’t the vaccine that was shot into my system, I don’t know what to think.”

A Boston doctor had an allergic reaction after receiving Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, but is doing well.

Foster say he got a phone call from a nurse Monday telling him there had been a mix up and he had been injected with saline instead of the Pfizer vaccine.

“That’s what I’m afraid of that there’s people out there that may think that they’re protected and may not be,” said Foster.

Dr. Katherine Gergen Barnett with Boston Medical Center says this kind of mix up is not common.

“We know that the number of times that a saline shot has been given instead of the live vaccine or the real vaccine is incredibly, exceedingly rare,” Gergen Barnett said.

The Boston doctor explains that saline is very safe… and the way Pfizer vaccines are manufactured and shipped, the live vaccine is mixed with saline shortly before it’s administered, something shown in a CDC illustration.

“There’s quality assurance at every single place where vaccines are being given,” Gergen Barnett said.

The Department of Public Health says rare incidents like this are reported to the federal government through the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System.

And people are immediately contacted and rescheduled for their shot. Foster says he’s going to reschedule it himself.

“I’ve decided to go to my own medical provider and deal with it,” he said.

Public health experts want to be clear that millions of shots have been administered and this has happened very few times across the country. It should not deter people from getting the COVID vaccine, they said.

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