British Columbia

Vancouver teenager was one of 12 mistakenly given Moderna instead of Pfizer vaccine

Vancouver Coastal Health says 12 children were mistakenly given the Moderna vaccine last week. Only the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is approved in Canada for children under 18.

Medical experts say the error is unlikely to have any serious consequences

Noora Alenezi, 13, was mistakenly given the Moderna vaccine last week at the Vancouver Convention Centre. Only the Pfizer vaccine has been approved for children her age in Canada. (Enzo Zanatta/CBC)

A  teenager in Vancouver said she was accidentally given the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine instead of the Pfizer-BioNTech, which is the only one in Canada approved for children under 18. 

Noora Alenezi, 13, was so excited about getting her COVID-19 vaccine that she booked her appointment as soon as health officials approved the Pfizer vaccine for children aged 12 to 17.

But when she showed up at the Vancouver Convention Centre with her mother and brother for her appointment, the nurse who was about to administer her shot told her she was getting the Moderna vaccine.

"I thought she knew better than us," Noora Alenezi said. "I thought it got approved or something before we came."

'It's not a small mistake'

Noora and her mother, Faiezah Alenezi, say it wasn't until the nurse was about to administer the same vaccine to her 14-year-old brother that she seemed to suddenly remember children should only get the Pfizer vaccine. 

They say the nurse and staff then scrambled, and apologized as they admitted the nurse had administered the wrong vaccine. 

The Vancouver Convention Centre is one of a few COVID-19 vaccination clinics set up around Vancouver. (Enzo Zanatta/CBC)

Faiezah says she realizes that mistakes happen, and she appreciates all the work that Vancouver Coastal Health is doing, but she thinks those administering the vaccine should be more careful. 

"I was really concerned, really upset," she said. "It's not a small mistake."

11 similar mistakes

In a written statement, Vancouver Coastal Health said Noora wasn't the only teenager who got the wrong vaccine last week. Altogether, 12 children were given Moderna instead of Pfizer-BioNTech. 

The health authority said this past week was the first one that had teenagers attend vaccination clinics, and Moderna was the primary vaccine being offered at that time. 

Faiezah Alenezi said the nurse who administered her daughter's vaccine quickly realized her mistake. (Enzo Zanatta/CBC)

VCH said although Moderna has yet to be approved for use in youth ages 12 to 17 in Canada, medical health officers don't believe it's harmful for those in that demographic.

Still, the health authority says it has put additional practices in place to ensure the mistake doesn't happen again. This includes new questions as part of the registration screening process, and Pfizer stations specifically for youth where possible. 

'Our health is in their hands'

Dr. Brian Conway, medical director of the Vancouver Infectious Disease Centre, says there's no biological reason why the Moderna vaccine would be unsafe for teens. 

"I wouldn't be terribly concerned about this error," Conway said. "I think it'll become the standard of care going forward." 

Conway says that although the Moderna study on the vaccine's effectiveness for children has yet to be completed, preliminary results suggest it is safe and effective. 

For Noora and her mother, the reassurance is somewhat comforting but they would still like to see better processes in place to protect teenagers like her. 

"Our health is in their hands, and they should be more aware of who they're giving the vaccine to," Noora said. 

With files from Zahra Premji

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