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New West pharmacy faces class-action lawsuit over alleged reuse of COVID-19 vaccine syringes

The incidents in question took place in August 2021
Kent Pharmacy sign
Kent Pharmacy, on Columbia Street in New Westminster, is facing a proposed class-action lawsuit over allegations that it reused syringes to administer COVID-19 vaccines in August.

A New Westminster pharmacy is facing a proposed class-action lawsuit over allegations that it reused syringes to administer COVID-19 vaccines to patients in the summer.

The lawsuit, filed in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver Oct. 13, arises from vaccinations that took place between Aug. 24 and 26, 2021 at Kent Pharmacy on Columbia Street. The notice of claim says patients who received their vaccines on those days were notified about a month later (on or about Sept. 22) that the syringes had been reused. (The “syringe” refers to the plastic tube containing the vaccine solution, not the actual needle.)

“As a result, patients were advised that they could be at risk of contracting blood-borne illnesses and needed to be tested three times over the course of the next three months,” it says.

The plaintiff named in the notice is Marie Powell, an education assistant who lives in New Westminster.

The suit says she has:

“sustained personal injury, loss and damage and, in particular, has sustained:

a. Mental injuries; and

b. Such further and other injuries as may become apparent through medical reports, testing and examinations, details of which shall be provided as they become known.”

Powell’s suit is seeking an order certifying it as a class action, with her as representative plaintiff. It asks for general damages, special damages, damages for lost income and loss of opportunity, damages for loss of past and future earning capacity, aggravated damages and punitive damages.

It’s also looking to recover the costs of future care, costs of the action and the recovery of health-care costs incurred by the Ministry of Health, on their behalf.

The notice of claim names three defendants: Kent Pharmacy, pharmacist/pharmacy manager Bhanu Prasad Seelaboyina and pharmacy owner Fabina Kara.

“As a result of the defendants’ failure to use reasonable care, skill and diligence in and about the treatment of the plaintiff and other class members, the plaintiff and other proposed class members suffer, at a minimum, mental injuries and alteration of lifestyles as a result of potential exposure to illnesses. Further, the plaintiff and proposed class members may in fact develop illnesses that could seriously harm them and impair their functioning, and possibly cause death,” the notice of claim says.

No response to the claim has yet been filed, and the allegations have not yet been proven in court.

B.C. College of Pharmacists has taken action

Seelaboyina has also been the subject of a complaint to the B.C. College of Pharmacists. A complaint outcome posted on the college’s website notes that:

“The registrant has admitted to using the same syringe barrel for multiple patients while administering COVID-19 vaccinations between August 24, 2021 and August 26, 2021. This conduct occurred while he was in a leadership role as a pharmacy manager.”

A College of Pharmacists inquiry committee has reached an agreement with Seelaboyina that places conditions on his practice, pending an investigation into his conduct, “until further notice.”

He is required “to not act in the role of a pharmacy manager” and “to not administer drugs or substances by injection and/or intranasal route.”

The college has also revoked his drug administration certification.

Follow Julie MacLellan on Twitter @juliemaclellan.
Email Julie, [email protected].