UPDATE: Soon after TheBayNet.com released this story, the Calvert County Health Department released an email to parents about this incident. You can read that full letter at the bottom of the story.

LUSBY, Md. — Future COVID-19 vaccination efforts at elementary schools in Calvert County are being postponed following a mix-up at Dowell Elementary School after a child was accidentally vaccinated without parental consent. This follows a decision from the Calvert County Health Department to use schools as vaccination distribution points to more efficiently distribute the COVID-19 shot to young children.

Calvert County Administrator Mark Willis confirmed to TheBayNet.com that on November 9, the wrong 6-year-old received a vaccine. However, the accident is believed to be the result of an odd coincidence.

According to Willis, two 6-year-olds at the school have the same full names, but different birthdays. One of those students had parental consent to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, and one did not. When the child without parental consent was taken in by the nurse, they told the nurse that their parent had not given consent. Parents were supposed to send advance notice of their consent to the school.

When the school went to call the parents to get verification, the parents for the other child were mistakenly called. They verified that their child was supposed to be vaccinated at school. The incorrect verification is what likely caused the mistake.

“I don’t know how they determined the mistake was made,” Willis explained. “ We later called the parents to walk them through what to look for going forward. Those parents were obviously upset and unhappy.”

However, Willis also said that both parents and an older sibling had already received their COVID-19 vaccine. They had planned to get their child vaccinated at their pediatrician but had not given consent for it to happen at school.

Once the county was alerted to the incident, actions were taken to avoid any future mistakes.

“[Willis], The Board of Commissioners, and Dr. Polsky all decided to put in place protocols to avoid that happening in the future,” Willis said. “The parent will validate directly with the child that it is correct for them to be vaccinated. The Board of County Commissioners is still concerned that we get it right and the public is made fully aware.”

The process which the school was utilizing had been used before with other vaccination efforts, but Willis described it as something he had never heard of happening before in Calvert County.

“The same thing has been done in the past with flu shots,” Willis said. “But [mistakes] happen, and we have to safeguard against it.”

Another vaccine effort where parental consent needed to be given in advance, previously planned for November 12 at Huntingtown Elementary School, has been postponed indefinitely. All other vaccine drives that the school had been planning, which involves parents being present while shots are administered, have not been impacted.

Contact our news desk at news@thebaynet.com


Below is the full letter from Dr. Larry Polsky, Calvert County Health Officer: 

November 11, 2021

This week, the Calvert County Health Department has been providing Covid vaccines to students in our county’s schools.  The Health Department has teamed with Calvert County Public Schools to provide influenza vaccinations for well over a decade.  During that time, protocols have been in place to best assure that students who are consented by their parents to receive vaccination receive appropriate and safe care.  For the first time in well over 15,000 vaccinations, a student who was not consented by their parents inadvertently received a vaccination.  That student is doing well, and parents were immediately notified once the error was recognized.

For all of our community’s parents who have trusted the Calvert Health Department over the years, I want to reassure you that all of our staff, including me, take any error extremely seriously and have already taken steps to best ensure that this never happens again.  We clearly recognize the responsibility we have to your children and to you to deliver safe and appropriate care.  There is nothing more important to us than keeping the children of our county safe.

In addition to the existing verification protocols that have, up until this week, prevented any incidents of mistaken identity over many years, the health department and the school system have added two new measures.  To supplement the identification checks that have been in place before children walk from their classrooms to the vaccination room, each teacher will do a final verification that the names on the vaccination list match both the child and the individual name tags. 

There are two layers of child verification in the vaccination room.  Historically, if there was any discrepancy in the verification process or for any reason the nurses had reason to be concerned, they would call the child’s parent to assure the vaccination was appropriate.  If the parent could not be reached for verification, the child was sent back to class unvaccinated, and a note was sent home explaining why the vaccination was not given. 

Going forward, in addition to speaking to the parent, we will have the parent speak directly to the child with the nurse listening on speaker to absolutely be certain that the parent and child match.  This may be done through video such as FaceTime or additional information will be obtained, such as a nickname that only the child’s parents would know.

On behalf of the nurses at our health department and the school system, we terribly regret the occurrence this week.  In my conversations with nurses, they were visibly upset that such a thing could happen.  Although the vaccinated child is doing fine, we realize that any mistake in health settings can have detrimental consequences.  It is our obligation to you and your children to do better in the future.  We are taking steps to do that.  Your trust means everything to us.


Dr. Larry Polsky, Calvert County Health Officer