New York: A Long Island high school science teacher was arrested after authorities said she administered a coronavirus vaccine to a 17-year-old boy even though she was not professionally authorised to do so and did not have his parents’ consent.
Police said Laura Russo, a biology teacher at Herricks High School in Searingtown, New York, gave the teen the injection at her home in Sea Cliff, a village on Long Island. The teen, who has not been publicly identified, then went home and told his mother, who contacted the authorities, according to a statement from the Nassau County Police Department.
Russo, 54, who is not a medical professional, was arrested on New Year’s Eve for unauthorized practice of a profession, police said.
Russo could not be reached for comment, and it is not yet clear whether she has an attorney in the case.
Federal health authorities say proper vaccine administration by a trained medical professional is essential for safe and effective vaccination - with any vaccine. But this is especially true with the coronavirus vaccines because the messenger RNA technology requires specialised training, said Monica Gandhi, an infectious-disease expert at the University of California at San Francisco.
It is not clear which coronavirus vaccine the teen was given, but the Pfizer-BioNTech shot is the only one authorised for use in people younger than 18. Moderna is testing its vaccine in children as young as 6 months.
Although Gandhi could not speak to this specific case, she said that in general coronavirus vaccines should be administered by health-care professionals. She said that health-care professionals have to receive particular training to give intramuscular injections - or shots deep into the muscle - which is the technique these coronavirus vaccines require.
And because the mRNA vaccines require such cold temperatures and specialised handling, it is “quite tricky” to make sure it is done correctly so the mRNA technology does not break down, she said.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, for instance, must be stored at ultracold temperatures, thawed, mixed with the precise amount of saline for injection and then administered within a narrow window of time. “There are very certain specific procedures to administer it. That’s my concern about someone who is not trained giving a vaccine to a person,” Gandhi said.
It is unclear whether the teen was monitored after receiving the shot and where the teacher got the vaccine. Gandhi said that an individual cannot order the vaccine from the manufacturer; it must be ordered by a medical professional or health-care facility.
A spokesman for the Nassau County Police Department said Tuesday that he had no further details.
The Herricks schools superintendent, Fino Celano, said in a statement that the “individual in question is a district employee who has been removed from the classroom and reassigned pending the outcome of the investigation.”
“As this is a matter of personnel, the district has no further comment,” he added.
Russo, who has been released from custody, is scheduled to appear in court Jan. 21, police said. The charge against her, unauthorized practice of a profession, is a felony that could carry up to four years in prison if she is convicted.