Four German Healthcare Workers Hospitalized Following COVID Vaccine Overdose

Four German healthcare workers were hospitalized on Sunday after receiving five times the recommended dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine.

Officials from the Vorpommern-Ruegen district said the doses were administered to eight employees, ranging from age 66 to 82, in a nursing home in the Hanseatic city of Stralsund on December 27.

When the mistake was discovered, officials sent half of the employees home. However, the other half was sent to the hospital for observation after developing flu-like symptoms.

"I deeply regret the incident. This individual case is due to individual errors," said Stefan Kerth, a Vorpommern-Ruegen district administrator, in a statement published on December 28. "I wish all those affected that they do not experience any serious side effects."

The district officials cited an earlier statement from BioNTech that pointed out that large doses were used in the vaccine's first phase of clinical trials without any serious consequences.

Germany Launches Covid-19 Vaccinations Nationwide BERLIN, GERMANY
Four German healthcare workers were hospitalized after receiving five times the recommended dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine. A vaccination center Arena in Berlin is shown above on the first day of the nationwide launch of COVID-19 vaccinations on December 27, 2020 Photo by Omer Messinger/Getty Images

The incident occurred only a day into Germany and the European Union's (EU) vaccine rollout.

Germany, Hungary and Slovakia began administering vaccines on Saturday after the EU approved Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus shots on December 21.

Some German districts, however, refused to use the vaccine doses they received over the weekend due to concerns that the cold conditions needed to ship the vaccine were interrupted during delivery.

"When reading the temperature loggers that were enclosed in the cool boxes, doubts arose about the compliance with the cold chain requirements," the district of Lichtenfels, north of Germany's largest state, Bavaria, said in a statement to Reuters.

Medical staff reportedly found that the temperature in one of the vaccine's transport boxes had risen to 15 degrees Celsius (59 degrees Fahrenheit), far surpassing the ideal temperature for the vaccine.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine needs to be transported at a temperature between -112 degrees and -76 degrees Fahrenheit in a thermal shipping container with dry ice.

Along with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the EU has contracts with British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca and U.S. company Moderna. The EU anticipates vaccinating 6.25 million of its 447.7 million population before the end of the year.

Over the course of the pandemic, Germany has reported over 1.6 million cases of COVID-19 and 30,500 deaths as of December 28, according to data from John Hopkins University.

Newsweek reached out to the Vorpommern-Ruegen district office but didn't hear back in time for publication.