A few people who showed up for a COVID-19 vaccine at a Kroger grocery store in Virginia ended up with essentially a "shot of nothing" and had to be called back to the store get get a real vaccination.
A healthcare worker at The Little Clinic inside the Kroger in Chesterfield County was under the impression that a colleague had filled the syringes with vaccine and began administering them but discovered that they had not been filled, a Kroger spokesperson told local news station 8News.
"Less than 10" people got a "shot of nothing," according to the spokesperson.
Early reports indicated that the shots had been filled with a saline solution, but those were untrue, according to the station.
All of the people who received the empty shots were called and returned to the clinic to receive a shot containing the COVID-19 vaccine. The empty shot was not harmful, according to the Virginia Department of Health.
"As soon as Kroger realized that the event occurred, Kroger responded by contacting the individuals impacted," the department said. "There were no harmful risks related to the syringes used. VDH [Virginia Department of Health] has weekly meetings with pharmacy partners."
The health professionals administering the vaccines have been retrained on how to prevent such an event from occuring again, according to the report.
"We apologize for this oversight and the inconvenience caused for these customers," Kroger said in a written statement. The grocery chain has administered 836,000 vaccines at all of its locations.
Some local residents were understanding of the mistake.
"This is a Herculean effort by the government and private industry working together to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible. Mistakes are going to happen in this process, I think that should be expected," James Millner told the station. "But I think we should take it in stride, and it should certainly not deter anybody from seeking the vaccine or getting the vaccine."
But Zena Vruce feared that's exactly the consequence that could befall such a event.
"There's already people having problems already about, you know, 'Should I take it or should I not?'" Vruce said, adding that the empty syringes seemed "a little reckless" and wondered how someone would not notice them.
Nationwide, local pharmacy owners are filling in the gaps as federal, state and county authorities across the country struggle to ramp up vaccinations vital to crushing the COVID-19 pandemic. In some small towns across the U.S., an independent pharmacy is the only local place where residents can get a COVID-19 vaccination.
All told, the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program has 21 companies taking part including big drugstore and grocery chains and mass merchandisers like Costco and Walmart. However, not all the big chains like CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens are giving out vaccinations in every state in which they're located.
The program is giving a boost to the independents that have been losing ground to the nationwide retailers for decades. In 2015, independents accounted for 36% of the 61,000 pharmacies across the U.S., according to the National Community Pharmacists Association, a trade group. By 2019, they accounted for 35% as the number of pharmacies overall grew to 61,480.
The Associated Press contributed.
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