42 people in Boone County, southwest West Virginia, who were due to be given the coronavirus vaccine Wednesday, were instead mistakenly injected with experimental monoclonal antibody treatment, the West Virginia National Guard said Thursday.
None of the 42 recipients have developed any adverse effects to date, the guard said in a statement. The guard who directs the government's vaccine distribution effort described the failure as a "collapse of the process."
The experimental treatment, a cocktail of antibodies from Regeneron, is the same that President Trump received when he was hospitalized with Covid-19 in November. It is intended to be given as an intravenous infusion, not a direct injection like the vaccine.
Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, the West Virginia National Guard's adjutant general, said the mix-up appeared to have occurred during the delivery of a shipment of the Regeneron cocktail to a distribution hub where the vials were placed among the supplies of the Moderna vaccine. The hub staff then apparently included the treatment vials in a vaccine shipment to Boone County.
General Hoyer attributed the situation to "a few human errors" and said the guard acted quickly once they realized what had happened. "We have found a problem, we fix it and we are making progress," he said on Thursday in a radio interview.
No other shipments of the vaccine were affected, the guard said in a statement.
Vials for the treatment and vaccine look somewhat similar but are clearly labeled, as are the boxes they are in. Both are kept refrigerated before use.
The mistake came at a time when record numbers of hospitalizations across the country signaled a greater need than ever for the scarce and expensive antibody treatments, even though some supplies across the country are being kept unused in refrigerators.
Officials in West Virginia reported 1,109 new coronavirus cases and 20 new deaths Thursday. There have been at least 85,334 cases and 1,338 deaths in the state since the pandemic began, according to a database from the New York Times.