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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
The Iowa Department of Corrections has fired two nurses at the Iowa State Penitentiary at Fort Madison after they incorrectly gave 77 offenders overdoses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in April.
“As a result of a thorough investigation into the incident, the two nurses that were involved had their employment terminated,” department spokesman Cord Overton said in an email Tuesday.
The terminations were first reported in the Des Moines Register.
The mother of one of the inmates said the men received six times the recommended dose. The Pfizer vaccine is packaged as a concentrate that must be diluted with saline solution first, while some other vaccines do not need to be diluted.
As soon as staff realized the error, they contacted the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Pfizer. Corrections staff have been monitoring the men since and said they have had the same side effects — arm soreness, body aches, fatigue and fever — as others who got the correct dose of the vaccine.
The nurses were put on leave pending the outcome of the investigation and then eventually were fired. Overton did not identify the nurses.
Leaders of AFSCME Council 61, which represents many prison workers, said the error happened because of inadequate staff training leading up to the vaccinations.
The Corrections Department reported June 4 that more than 58 percent of people incarcerated in Iowa’s prisons are fully vaccinated, while 62 percent have had one shot. The full vaccination rate among prison staff was 56 percent at that time.
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