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LYNDEN, Wash. - Police have questioned a woman described as a registered nurse, who allegedly administered what she said were flu shots to patrons at three area supermarkets.
Lynden police said the woman, whose name and address have not been revealed, told them she held the flu shot clinics on her own and that she had located doses of the flu vaccine Aventis over the Internet. Authorities tracked her down after consumers became suspicious when the shots didn't make their arms sore, which is often the case after the vaccine is injection. As many as 130 shoppers may have received the shots. At presstime the woman was free after questioning and had not been charged with any crime.
The woman, who had represented herself as a member of Visiting Nurse Personal Services, administered flu shots at Cost Cutter grocery stores in Lynden and Blaine on Nov. 5, and again at Food Pavilion in Lynden on Nov. 13, charging $30 for each vaccine. Both chains are owned by Bellingham, Wash.-based Brown & Cole Stores, which contacted the police and health department after vaccine recipients raised the alarm.
There is some concern among health officials that the flu vaccine could have been stored improperly or otherwise mishandled. Police sent a sample of the Aventis Fluzone vaccine allegedly used at the clinics to the FDA Forensic Chemistry Center in Cincinnati, which has determined that the sample was actually flu vaccine. Lynden police spokesman John Velester told Progressive Grocer that the investigation could widen to become a federal probe involving the FDA and DEA.
Brown & Cole spokewoman Sue Cole told Progressive Grocer Visiting Nurse Personal Services had run clinics at Brown & Cole-owned stores last year. She said that the manager of the two Lynden stores and the Blaine manager, when contacted by the woman about the clinics, were "excited to be able to provide that service" during a nation flu vaccine shortage and leapt at the opportunity.
Cole noted that the woman used sterilized needles at the clinics and otherwise appeared to follow proper medical procedure, and that no one had suffered any adverse effects from the shots.
Describing Brown & Cole's 31 stores as "fairly autonomous" and able to plan their own community events, Cole said the company would in the future "keep a much tighter rein on this kind of activity, out of necessity [for the safety of our customers.]" She also stressed that none of the stores earned any money from the clinics.
-- Bridget Goldschmidt