Fact Check

Did a Walgreens in NC Inadvertently Inject Saline Instead of COVID-19 Vaccines?

Saline, or sodium chloride solution, is used to dilute some COVID-19 vaccines before injection.

Published Apr 19, 2021

Army Spc. Angel Laureano holds a vial of the COVID-19 vaccine, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, Md., Dec. 14, 2020. (DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando) (U.S. Secretary of Defense/Lisa Ferdinando/Flickr)
Army Spc. Angel Laureano holds a vial of the COVID-19 vaccine, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, Md., Dec. 14, 2020. (DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)
In March 2021, staff at a Walgreens pharmacy in Monroe, North Carolina, inadvertently injected some individuals with saline instead of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Snopes is still fighting an “infodemic” of rumors and misinformation surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, and you can help. Find out what we've learned and how to inoculate yourself against COVID-19 misinformation. Read the latest fact checks about the vaccines. Submit any questionable rumors and “advice” you encounter. Become a Founding Member to help us hire more fact-checkers. And, please, follow the CDC or WHO for guidance on protecting your community from the disease.

In April 2021, local and national news outlets reported that an unfortunate mix-up had taken place at a Walgreens pharmacy in Monroe, North Carolina, whereby a number of individuals received a saline injection instead of a COVID-19 vaccination.

On April 18, WCCB reported that:

A local woman says she and her husband were among those involved in a vaccine mix-up at a local Walgreens. The company admits some people who were supposed to get a COVID shot were accidently injected with a saline solution instead.

“You question how could that even happen?” asks Marshville resident Lisa Strawn. She says she and her husband walked into the Walgreens on Fincher Street in Monroe on March 20th and got what they thought was the Pfizer vaccine.

“About 5:30 they called us and told us we needed to come back the next day, that there had been a mix-up with our shot,” Strawn says. She says she was told the pharmacist had forgotten to mix the vaccine and they had only gotten a saline shot.

Similar reports were published by local channels WXII, WCNC, WRAL and WTVD, as well as The Charlotte Observer and Newsweek.

Those accounts were accurate.

A spokesperson for Walgreens told Snopes that a total of 22 individuals had been affected by the mix-up, which took place on March 20, at only one Walgreens location on Fincher Street in Monroe. According to the company spokesperson, all 22 individuals have been contacted by the pharmacy to notify them, and all of them were scheduled to have received a second dose of the Pfizer vaccine over the weekend of April 17-18. The company statement added:

We recently learned of a limited number of patients who did not receive the vaccine at one of our Monroe, North Carolina locations and instead received an injection of saline, the diluent used to prepare Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines. In alignment with CDC recommendations, immediate corrective actions were taken. We reached out to all impacted patients and administered a COVID-19 vaccination as soon as the impacted patients were available to return to the pharmacy.

...We have safely administered millions of vaccine doses. We have taken immediate steps to review our detailed procedures with the location to prevent this from occurring again. It’s also very important to note there is no reason to believe there is harm to any of these patients. We continue to strengthen our operating procedures and are committed to this not occurring again.

Saline is used as a diluent for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, and it appears that staff at the Monroe Walgreens had, on March 20, neglected to add the vaccine to the saline before administering it to the 22 individuals affected.

Dan Mac Guill is a former writer for Snopes.

Article Tags