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Officials say 77 inmates in Iowa prison given COVID-19 vaccine overdose

Officials say 77 inmates in Iowa prison given COVID-19 vaccine overdose
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Officials in Iowa said this week that 77 inmates in a state prison were given overdoses of Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine.

Cord Overton, a spokesman for the Iowa Department of Corrections, said in a statement to The Hill that the inmates at the Iowa State Penitentiary were given doses of the vaccine on Tuesday that exceeded the recommended dose. The Department is investigating how much the dosage exceeded the recommendation, though initial reports say it may have been six times the recommended dose.

Overton said that upon learning of the error, the department contacted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Pfizer for guidance, and the affected inmates are being monitored by medical staff. 

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He said none of the inmates at the maximum-security prison for men became sick to the point where they needed outside medical care.

"At this time, the only side effects experienced by the inmates are those commonly associated with the Pfizer vaccine," he said. "These include sore arm, body aches, and one inmate has experienced a low-grade fever which was treatable with Tylenol. No inmates have required hospitalization."

Vaccine distribution at the prison has since been halted, Overton said, and two nursing staff employees who allegedly administered the vaccines were placed on leave pending the outcome of an investigation.

The Hill has reached out to the Department of Corrections, Pfizer and the CDC for comment.

According to a local ABC affiliate, 200 inmates at the Iowa State Penitentiary received their first dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, and 48 have received their second dose. Statewide, 1,964 inmates have received their first dose and 214 have had their second dose.

States across the country have taken different approaches to vaccinating incarcerated people. Last month, a judge in New York ruled that state officials must start vaccinating all incarcerated people in the state’s jails and prisons, whereas Massachusetts had already offered the vaccine to all inmates.

--Updated at 12:04 p.m.