December 11, 2004 in Nation/World

Flu vaccine given at unauthorized clinic at college was real thing

Brian Bakst Associated Press
 

MINNEAPOLIS – Tests show the shots administered by a woman at an unauthorized flu clinic this month contained the real flu vaccine, calming fears the shots could have contained something dangerous.

The Minnesota Health Department said Friday that all the vials seized by police when they arrested 33-year-old Michelle Lynn Torgerson last Friday contained flu vaccine, though tests showed saline was used to dilute some of them.

State epidemiologist Dr. Harry Hull said none of the three dozen people who received a shot has exhibited any signs of illness, but they have been warned that a diluted vaccine may not immunize them against the flu.

“The good thing on this is everyone remains well. We would anticipate that no one is going to be harmed by this event,” Hull said.

Torgerson, a licensed nurse, said she put on the $20-per-shot clinic at Augsburg College using leftover flu vaccine from her employer to raise money for her daughter’s school. She said she thought she had permission to hold the clinic, though she fled when asked about her credentials.

Torgerson was arrested on suspicion of theft and drug possession, but has not been charged. She was released on bond Sunday.

Her former employer, Maxim Health Services of Columbia, Md., has ordered her to return any vaccine left over from legitimate clinics she ran for the company. A Maxim spokesman did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment Friday.

The incident sparked fear on the campus that the woman could have injected people with a harmful substance. Some of those who received shots said they have gotten HIV tests.

Torgerson’s attorney, Robert Hajek, said the lab results should vindicate his client, who has maintained her innocence. “She knew what she was injecting people with, and it was wholesome flu vaccine,” he said.

Health Department officials said police and the FDA were conducting criminal investigations.

© Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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