Nurse skips medical supplies stores, reuses flu shot syringe

The very existence of medical supply stores such as Discount Medical Supplies makes it even more baffling that a nurse in New Jersey reused a syringe to administer flu shots to 67 employees at Otsuka Pharmaceutical in Princeton on September, 30th. The staff was warned that they may have been exposed to ‘infected blood’ and have been tested for HIV and hepatitis. The nurse who administered the shots “failed to follow proper medical procedures and safeguards,” according to the company that contracted the nurse, healthcare provider TotalWellness. New, disposable, single-use syringes are not only widely available at DMS, but they are also very inexpensive.

One can’t help but think that had any medical supply stores – preferably DMS – been involved this regretful mix-up could have been avoided. “The needles were changed between each patient but the syringe was reused multiple times,” a New Jersey Department of Health official wrote to an Otsuka employee. “Syringe reuse may have exposed you to infected blood. At this time NJDOH is not aware of any disease transmission, but you may be at risk for developing an infection as a result of this improper practice.” The company’s staff will need to be tested again in 4-6 months to allow for viruses’ incubation periods. NJDOH, the CDC, and TotalWellness offered free blood tests.

Coincidentally, syringes and other products are not free at medical supply stores, though at Discount Medical Supplies they are so low-priced they are indeed almost free. TotalWellness said that the company takes “full responsibility for this incident and are working diligently with the New Jersey Department of Health to resolve this matter as swiftly as possible” and that it is “dedicated to ensuring all participants receive any and all appropriate screenings, care and counseling until this matter is resolved.” Otsuka released its own statement, saying that “the health and wellness of our employees is our primary concern. We were upset and alarmed when we learned that a nurse, affiliated with TotalWellness, the company we retained to provide free flu shots for our employees, had breached vaccination protocols during what should have been a routine flu shot clinic.”

In addition to reusing syringes, the nurse also administered less than the recommended dose of the flu vaccine. “Receiving less than the recommended amount is not harmful, but you might not be fully protected against the flu,” the aforementioned official wrote. “We are recommending that you get another flu shot this season to ensure that you are completely protected. There will be flu shots available to you at the testing and vaccination clinic in West Windsor, should you decide to get revaccinated.” The official added that “the needles were changed between each patient but the syringe was reused multiple times.” Speaking of which, clinics, hospitals, doctors, nurses, and particulars can also find needles at medical supply stores like DMS. The identity of the nurse has not been disclosed, although officials revealed that he or she is licensed by the New Jersey Board of Nursing. A Board of Nursing spokesperson said the incident is being investigated and that no disciplinary measures have been taken yet.

Related: How to safely give a subcutaneous injection?