Walgreens Employee Accused of Administering COVID Vaccine to Kids Instead of Flu Shot

A family from southern Indiana says their 4- and 5-year-old children were accidentally given adult COVID-19 vaccines, rather than a flu shot, at Walgreens, even as the vaccination has not been approved for children younger than 12.

The family of four went to a Walgreens in Evansville to get their flu shots on October 4, but after they left the pharmacy, they say an employee called to inform them of the mistake, WFIE-TV, a local television news station reported.

The family was then given COVID-19 vaccine cards, which showed that the children, born in 2016 and 2017, were given the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, WFIE reported.

The children have been taken to a pediatric cardiologist, and the family was told they were both showing signs of heart issues, and the younger child has been sick with a fever and cough, WFIE reported.

In a statement to Newsweek Monday morning, a spokesperson for Walgreens declined to comment on the specific case, citing privacy laws.

"However, in general, such instances are rare and Walgreens takes these matters very seriously," the statement said. "In the event of any error, our first concern is always our patients' well-being. Our multi-step vaccination procedure includes several safety checks to minimize the chance of human error and we have reviewed this process with our pharmacy staff in order to prevent such occurrences."

Although the COVID-19 vaccine is recommended to prevent serious illness in adults, it has not been approved for anyone younger than 12 years old.

Pfizer announced last week that it had submitted its COVID-19 vaccine for children between 5 and 11 years old to the FDA for approval—though children as young as 4 would still not be eligible. However, children in this age group would be given a third of the dosage compared to those given in adults.

Research showed that despite the lesser doses, younger children were able to develop levels of virus-fighting antibodies as effective as in teens and young adults.

If approved, the vaccine rollout could begin within the next few weeks.

This is not the first instance of a young child mistakingly being given the COVID-19 vaccine. A 4-year-old in Maryland was accidentally given a COVID-19 dose instead of the flu shot at the end of September at a local Walgreens, WBFF-TV, a local TV news station, reported.

Walgreens said in a statement to the TV station at the time that "events like this are extremely rare and we take this matter very seriously."

In April, an 8-year-old boy was vaccinated at a Texas drive-through vaccine site after his father did not know he was not eligible for the vaccine, KXAN-TV reported.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls vaccine administration errors "preventable," and if someone under the age of 12 is given a dose, they are not to receive the second.

Newsweek reached out to the family's lawyer, Daniel Tuley for comment Monday morning but had not heard back by publication. This story will be updated with any response.

Update 11:55 a.m. 10/11/2021: This story has been updated to include a response from Walgreens.

COVID-19 vaccine
Two young children were allegedly given the COVID-19 vaccine instead of a flu shot. Above, Pfizer vaccines are seen in Germany in January. THOMAS KIENZLE/AFP via Getty Images