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Study Finds Vaccine Errors May Leave Patients Vulnerable

Vaccine Errors

Medical malpractice can take many forms, ranging from the heartbreaking tragedy of birth injuries to more subtle, yet just as potentially harmful vaccine errors. Now, a recently released study highlights the prevalence of these types of medical mistakes and discusses their potential for adverse effects. The study was released by the Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP), an independent consumer watchdog organization.

Dangers of vaccine errors

The report from the ISMP discusses two primary forms of vaccination errors. One way in which doctors or nurses may commit this type of medical mistake is by failing to administer the full course of vaccinations. In other words, if complete immunization requires multiple dosages administered over a specific course of time, the patient may sometimes not receive the subsequent dosages. This leaves the patient susceptible to contracting serious infectious diseases, usually without being aware of it. Patients can become critically ill and they may sometimes not survive the illness.

Additionally, when a greater portion of the populace is not fully protected against communicable diseases, the population as a whole is also at an increased risk due to the rapid spread of germs.

The ISMP report also discusses a common problem with vaccinations that are available in a powdered form. Healthcare providers must mix these vaccinations with a diluting agent before administering them. In some instances, healthcare providers may neglect to add the powdered immunization to the diluting agent, and only administer the diluting agent to the patient. This type of vaccine error leaves the patient completely unprotected against the illness.

The report notes that these two types of medication errors account for about six percent of all errors reported to the ISMP National Vaccine Errors Reporting Program (ISMP VERP), which has been in existence since late 2012. Meningitis and pertussis are just two of the serious illnesses that patients are at risk of, should they fall victim to this type of medical negligence.

The ISMP report does not discuss other types of common vaccine errors, which have been the subject of much debate within the medical community. Another report published in Infectious Disease News discusses the problems that can occur when a healthcare provider fails to closely check the name or abbreviation of a vaccine. Many vaccines have similar names or abbreviations, such as PCV13 and PPSV23. It is possible for a healthcare provider to mistakenly administer the wrong vaccine.

The fourth most prevalent vaccine error is administering an overdose of the solution.

Advocates call for improvements

The second half of the ISMP report addresses improvements that may be made to reduce instances of vaccine errors and safeguard patient health. The ISMP recommends that vaccine manufacturers improve the labeling of the products by using a flag-type label to highlight critical information. Manufacturers may reduce the risk of errors with vaccines that require a diluting agent by packaging the two items together and using additional labeling to remind healthcare providers of the necessary steps in administration.

Hospitals and clinics can further improve patient safety by launching ongoing staff training initiatives. Staff members who handle and/or administer vaccines should be made aware of the potential for errors and how to avoid them.