Blunder at clinic gave 700 infants an overdose

(Daily Express Nov 24, 1994)

 A HOSPITAL blunder led to 1,700 new-born babies being given a drug overdose, health chiefs admitted yesterday.

The infants were injected with five times the normal dose of an anti-tuberculosis vaccine after staff mixed up medicines.

Doctors warned that they could suffer an allergic reaction and some would need treatment.

The hospital is to open an emergency help line for parents, who will learn of the blunder today in a letter of apology.

The injections were given to children born over a three-month period this year at St Mary’s Hospital, Manchester, a leading maternity centre,

Yesterday they were checking their records to trace all the affected babies.

Scores of GPs are being warned to watch for symptoms in their patients.

The mistake was only uncovered after several mothers complained that scars on the arms of their children caused by the injection were not healing.

A hospital spokesman said an urgent inquiry was underway to find out how the mistake happened. But be said that children were unlikely to suffer permanent damage.

"In a number of cases it has caused a reaction where the needle has gone in, and it is taking longer to go down.



"Another reaction could be lumps under the child’s armpits. Most cases will only need observation, but a small number will need treatment," he added.

"There is no chance of this causing permanent damage other than a bigger immunisation scar when it heals."

The mistake happened after the hospital switched to its own pharmacy to provide the BCG vaccine. Previously an independent supplier had done the job.

Medical staff were not told that a stronger drug intended to be administered by an injection gun had been issued and they continued to give the babies hypodermic injections.

"Because of that, the babies were given too high a dose," said the spokesman for St Mary’s, which is part of the Greater Manchester Hospital Trust.

"We are still trying to find out how it came to be in a different form — and why that fact wasn’t picked up.

"We are looking into that so that it can’t happen again.

"Parents will be given a full explanation and a reassurance in the letters that are to go out."