Walgreens Store Injects People With Saline Rather Than COVID Vaccine in Mix-Up

A Walgreens pharmacy mistakenly administered saline injections instead of COVID-19 vaccines in a mix-up, the company has confirmed.

A spokesperson told local news outlets that a "limited number" of people were affected by the mistake, which occurred at a store in Monroe, North Carolina. Those affected had been informed, Walgreens said, and were offered a vaccine shot for when they were able to return.

"We are investigating what happened and have taken immediate steps to review our procedures with the location to prevent this from occurring again," the company said in a statement.

A woman who reported being among those affected said that her experience had taken place on March 20, when she and her husband were due to receive the Pfizer vaccine at a store on Fincher Street.

The patient, Lisa Strawn, said she was told a pharmacist forgot to mix the vaccine, resulting in only a saline shot being administered.

"I asked the guy, I said, 'How did you figure out that we only got saline?'" she told WCCB Charlotte. "And he said, 'Well at 5:00 when she called me and said she had a lot of vaccine leftover, what was she to do with it?' and he said 'You shouldn't have any vaccine left over,' so that's how they discovered it."

According to the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA), saline injections can be used as a source of hydration and electrolytes. Patients with conditions such as congestive heart failure, liver disease or kidney disease would require administration with particular caution.

The FDA has reported the use of saline placebos in clinical trials for the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines.

Last week, Walgreens announced it was rolling out COVID-19 vaccines in the majority of its stores in 49 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. The company said it had administered more than 11 million shots as of April 12.

Walgreens was among many companies to suspend the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended a pause in its administration.

The agencies announced an investigation into six cases of rare blood clots in patients who had received the vaccine. According to the CDC, the six cases were reported out of 6.8 million J&J vaccine doses administered in the U.S. until April 12.

The Statista graph below outlines the J&J vaccine's rollout in the U.S. in comparison to the Pfizer and Moderna shots.

Statista graph CDC vaccine data
A Statista graph shows how many doses of the J&J vaccine have been administered in the U.S. compared to other shots. Statista/CDC
Walgreens seen in Brooklyn, New York City
A Walgreens signage is seen in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn on February 09, 2021 in New York City. A Walgreens location in Monroe, North Carolina has accidentally administered saline shots instead of COVID-19 vaccines. Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images