MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - As hundreds of eligible Shelby County residents received their COVID-19 vaccine at the old Appling inspection station on Feb. 3, two children were also vaccinated that day.
An incident investigation report shows a volunteer immunized the children “because they had appointments and completed consent forms.”
After the children were vaccinated, the person running the Appling site “held the next cycle of cars and huddled all workers to ensure everyone understood no children were to be immunized.”
Vaccinations then resumed.
The volunteer who vaccinated the children spoke exclusively with the WMC Action News 5 Investigators on the condition of anonymity.
She said the children appeared to be over 10 years old and the incident “happened in the early stages of the vaccination process and they have since corrected [the issue] at Appling. And everywhere.”
The volunteer expressed regret and said it was a misunderstanding because a processor, a volunteer who checks the paperwork of people seeking vaccinations, let the children and their mother through to the vaccination site.
University Clinical Health (UCH) was in charge of the vaccination site that day.
UCH is a non-profit managed by the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC).
We spoke with Dr. Jon McCullers, UTHSC’s Dean of Clinical Affairs and Le Bonheur’s Pediatrician in Chief, and asked what issue needed to be corrected to make sure children weren’t immunized at a time when the COVID-19 vaccine has not yet been deemed safe in children.
“This was a systems issue,” said McCullers. “Everybody, every morning gets reminded of who can get the vaccine and they have this process in place now where, if there’s even a little bit of doubt, check with somebody and don’t just give the vaccine.”
McCullers also said the mom, whose last name is included in the report, should not have been able to make appointments for her two children.
UCH contacted the mom who told them “she didn’t have to input dates of birth in the sign up system” but when a City of Memphis employee “attempted to make an appointment on signupgenius.com...the date of birth is required.”
The mom also said she received consent forms for her children at the Appling site from someone “with a ponytail and headband.”
A City employee said “there was no one working that matched that description at the time of the incident.”
The report also shows after the kids received their shots, their mother told UCH her “children are fine with no symptoms.”
McCullers says his team will not follow up further.
“We’re not calling them back periodically to check on them after that initial call because enough time had elapsed where we felt comfortable with that,” he said.
For weeks, the Tennessee Department of Health has placed blame for the children’s vaccinations squarely on the Shelby County Health Department, a fact that wasn’t lost on the Shelby County health officer in Thursday’s COVID-19 Joint Task Force briefing.
“We have gotten blamed for something the health department staff and nurses did not do,” said Dr. Bruce Randolph. “The vaccination of children did not occur as a result of a Shelby County nurse or staff person rendering that vaccine.”
The volunteer who did render the vaccine said she has a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing. She said she received training from UTHSC before she volunteered. She also took off work to volunteer because she felt vaccinating people was important.