Pharmacist who allegedly reused syringe barrels for COVID-19 vaccinations faces class-action lawsuit

·2 min read
File photo of a pharmacy technician loading a syringe with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. A class action lawsuit has been filed against a pharmacy, its owner and its manager, who allegedly vaccinated people using the same syringe barrel, potentially exposing them to blood-borne illness. (Robert F. Bukaty/The Associated Press - image credit)
File photo of a pharmacy technician loading a syringe with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. A class action lawsuit has been filed against a pharmacy, its owner and its manager, who allegedly vaccinated people using the same syringe barrel, potentially exposing them to blood-borne illness. (Robert F. Bukaty/The Associated Press - image credit)

A class-action lawsuit has been filed against a pharmacy manager in New Westminster, B.C., who allegedly re-used syringe barrels while administering COVID-19 vaccinations.

Kent Pharmacy and its owner are also named in the civil action filed Monday in B.C. Supreme Court.

Patients injected at the pharmacy between Aug. 24 and Aug. 26 were potentially put at risk of blood-borne diseases by manager Bhanu Prasad Seelaboyina, who allegedly used the same syringe barrel — the plastic tube that holds the vaccine solution, not the needle — for different people, according to filing.

It's not clear how many patients were injected during this time, but pharmacy owner Fabina Kara previously told CBC that dozens of people might be affected.

Marie Powell, the representative plaintiff named in the suit, says she was injected in late August, but didn't find out until Sept. 22 that she might have been put at risk by a reused syringe barrel.

Powell, an education assistant, said she needed to be tested three times over a series of months to ensure she hadn't been exposed to blood-borne viruses including HIV and hepatitis B and C.

The lawsuit is seeking damages for "re-using the syringes and/or barrels when [Seelaboyina] knew or ought to have known" this could expose patients to life-threatening illnesses.

It says when a patient seeks a vaccination at a pharmacy, there's an implied contract that the professional who administers the dose will act with care and skill.

Reusing syringes was a breach of that contract, the suit argues.

In September, New Westminster resident Corinn Jockisch told CBC News she received a letter from Fraser Health asking her to call a public health nurse after she was potentially exposed to illness following her Aug. 25 vaccination at the pharmacy.

Shawn Foss/CBC News
Shawn Foss/CBC News

"I was just taken aback first, and you go through shock, of course, because you are just not sure what that really means and how serious is it. I got upset. I was just really upset," she said.

The College of Pharmacists of B.C. said the matter remains under investigation.

According to a notice on the college's website, Seelaboyina signed an agreement barring him from administering injections and his drug administration certification was revoked after incidents were initially reported.

Fraser Health stopped the pharmacy from administering COVID-19 vaccines after learning in September that syringe barrels had been reused on patients.

At the time, the health authority said the risk of contracting a blood-borne illness from a reused syringe barrel is low.

Kara told CBC in September that the pharmacist who administered the vaccines had been fired.

"My heart cries out … for these patients," she said. "It should have never happened."

The defendants have not yet filed a reply to the suit.

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