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Pueblo's top health leader talks changes after patient injected with empty syringe

Randy Evetts
Posted at 6:49 PM, Jan 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-29 00:26:45-05

PUEBLO — Public Health Director Randy Evetts called a press conference Thursday morning to discuss safety protocols for the COVID-19 vaccine clinic at the Pueblo Mall.

Evetts also answered questions over a story our News 5 Investigates team broke exactly one week ago.

As we reported, an 82-year-old woman was injected with an empty syringe during her vaccine appointment.

Randy Evetts
Public Health Director Randy Evetts

"We had a breakdown in the process initially," Evetts said. "Will it happen again? We definitely hope it won't. We've put processes in place to ensure that it won't."

Rosalee Pike
Rosalee Pike

Evetts apologized that Rosalee Pike, 82, had to get a second injection after learning the first shot she received did not contain the vaccine.

"I zoomed in on the syringe and the plunger was empty," Jamie Withnell, Rosalee's granddaughter said.

Empty vaccine syringe
Empty vaccine syringe

Withnell took her grandmother to get vaccination on Jan. 12 and snapped a picture just moments before Rosalee was injected. When she zoomed in, the syringe appeared empty.

This discovery was also documented in an official incident report News 5 Investigates obtained last week.

First incident report
Incident report obtained by News 5

It appears the mistake of having an empty syringe at one of the vaccine tables was an isolated event.

Evetts says they're increasing safety procedures to prevent future errors.

"Our nurses draw the vaccine in a separate room where they can concentrate and focus," Evetts said. "Then they are labeled and sent to the work station and they are checked by the nurses and by the vaccinator when they are administered."

Evetts says medical staff is working as quickly as they can to vaccinate as many people as possible and reiterates that safety is a top priority.

"Stuff happens periodically and we address it, fix it and we move on," he said. "It was my mistake to not share that (information about the empty vaccine) with the public. However, we did everything that we needed to do to ensure the safety of the patient."

The Pueblo Health Department also says the empty syringe Rosalee was injected with was new had never been used on a previous patient.

You can hear more from Evetts' press conference by watching KOAA News 5 on-air or on your favorite streaming device.

Do you have a problem or issue you'd like our investigative team to look into? Email us: News5Investigates@KOAA.com