Letters warning of vaccine underdosing go to wrong Oakland residents, raising more concerns

Kishore Parwani is one of an unknown number of people who received a letter from the state health department -- apparently by mistake -- alerting him that he may have received a less-than-optimal dose of Pfizer vaccine on March 1 at the Oakland Coliseum. 

Parwani, a Head Royce robotics coach, did indeed get vaccinated on that day.

But there's a problem: he didn't receive a dose at the Coliseum. 

That's where, KTVU first reported, over a span of two days, state officials say nearly 6,300 people may have received less vaccine than they should have.

Instead, Parwani and many of his neighbors all got vaccinated at Eastmont Mall in Oakland. The letter has now prompted concern and confusion over whether he, too, could have gotten less vaccine than he should have. 

Ali Bay, a spokeswoman for the California Health Department, said the answer is no.

That's because she said that only the Coliseum was impacted by the dosage issue, and "no other sites were impacted." 

In a phone interview on Wednesday, Bay said the reason the people at Eastmont Mall "inadvertently" received a letter about the dosing issue is likely because the site is run by the California Office of Emergency Service and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the same agencies running the Coliseum site. 

Bay said she wasn't sure exactly how many people were vaccinated at Eastmont Mall, but she said that number was included in the original 6,300 count. 

Just how many letters were erroneously sent out to people who were vaccinated at Eastmont Mall is unknown. Bay also said she was working to confirm there was another Cal OES/FEMA mobile site operating that day, too. 

But since this matter has been brought to her attention, Bay said the Eastmont Mall people, and anyone else involved, will now get a follow-up letter addressing this accidental notification. 

The mall pop-up vaccinated residents from March 1 to March 5. Kishore said he is scheduled to get his second dose there on March 22. 

The apparent double gaffe comes at a time when California is doing its best to vaccinate vulnerable populations and in doing so has made some blunders in its efforts. 

Even if people got a less-than-optimal dose of Pfizer vaccine, state officials have repeatedly said despite getting less of the vaccine, there is nothing to do, other than getting a second vaccination and everyone will still be OK.  

Through a series of phone calls and emails, Parwani's neighbor was told that they were sent the email from the state in error. 

Still, the mixed messages have Parwani scratching his head. 

"I'm obviously concerned that such a thing could happen," he said. "I'm hoping it's just a miscommunication, where all the contacts were lumped into one database and it's just causing unnecessary worry." 

For its part, the California Health Department, which sent out letters and emails on March 8 alerting about 6,300 people that they likely received up to .1 mL less than the recommended Pfizer dose a week earlier, said they were looking into the Eastmont Mall issue. 

And Parwani is not alone.

His neighbor, Max Shirazi, who also lives in Oakland's Sequoia Hills neighborhood, told KTVU on Wednesday that he is in the same situation.

He was vaccinated on March 1 at Eastmont Mall but received a letter from the state that he had received the wrong Pfizer dose at the Coliseum. 

Shirazi was able to reach the Alameda County Health Department, where a woman told him to "ignore it," and that the letter was sent out mistakenly.

No one responded for immediate comment from the Alameda County Health Department, which helped administer the vaccine at the pop-up site last week. 

Either way, Bay, the spokeswoman for the state health department, said that anyone who received about .2 mL of the Pfizer vaccine, instead of the recommended .3 mL amount, will be fine and no one needs to worry. People can make up for the loss when they get their second dose, she said. 

Bay also said that the Centers for Disease Control has determined that any dosage of 0.15 ml or larger is safe and does not require the dose to be repeated to protect people against COVID-19. 

The issue was first brought to light last week when KTVU reported accounts from two EMTs, who asked to remain anonymous, that the Coliseum site was sent a different shipment of syringes, which don't push out all the vaccine, leaving about 1/3 of the dose behind.

Since the healthcare workers weren't aware of these different syringes, they had given thousands of people slightly less vaccine on Feb. 28 from 4:30 p.m. to March 1 at 3 p.m., according to the state health department. 

Originally, Cal OES told KTVU there was no need to notify anyone since no one was "formally underdosed." Cal OES also sent out confusing messages to other news outlets, saying they weren't "aware" of any underdosing.

However, this week, the California Health Department changed course, sending out letters to people to notify them about what happened. 

Shirazi, an essential worker in San Leandro at an energy company, said until he received the letter about being underdosed, he thought the process at Eastmont Mall was smooth and efficient.

He said he was also thankful that he and his neighbors who all live in an at-risk ZIP code were sent access codes this month to be able to get vaccinated, as California is now aiming to vaccinate 40% of its vulnerable population.

As for the errant letter, he's hoping he can trust that it shouldn't have been sent to him. 

"I hope the information I was given was accurate," Shirazi said. 

Lisa Fernandez is a reporter for KTVU. Email Lisa at lisa.fernandez@foxtv.com or call her at 510-874-0139. Or follow her on Twitter @ljfernandez