PRINCETON — Roger Topping has resigned as administrator of the Mercer County Health Department.
The Mercer County Board of Health accepted his resignation during a special meeting Tuesday night.
Topping wrote the letter of resignation before the meeting, board Chair Dr. Randy Maxwell said, giving a 30-day notice.
But board member Robb Williams made the motion to accept the resignation, effective immediately, and it was passed unanimously.
Williams said a search will begin immediately for a replacement and he thanked Topping for his service at the health department.
“We thank him for his hard work and dedication and we wish him well,” he said.
The meeting had been called to consider what action, if any, needed to be taken after the health department mistakenly administered the wrong dosage of the COVID Moderna booster shot at a clinic on Oct. 28.
The problem surfaced last week when the state Bureau of Public Health learned that residents were given a full dose of Moderna rather then a half dose, which was the proper dosage.
Dr. Ayne Amjad, who is state Health Officer and head of the Bureau, placed a temporary “hold” on any vaccinations by the health department when it was learned full doses had been administered.
The bureau sent a team to the health department on Tuesday to evaluate what happened and educate personnel to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Topping said earlier the department did not know the dosages should have been half.
“We made a mistake,” Topping said. “We erred, and we are owning up to that. We are sorry it happened. But we thought we were doing what we were supposed to do. To my knowledge, we never received a memo that was directing us to use half of the full dose.”
Amjad said Friday health professionals should have known the proper dosage to be administered and anyone could have easily googled it.
She said doses should never be given without making sure it is the correct amount.
“The vials are all the same,” she said, “so you have to know the dose ... It’s common sense...”
Amjad said the full dose is not harmful, but could possibly cause a stronger side effect in some people than a half dose would.
Amjad said it is a “serious” quality assurance issue and various mistakes have been made in other counties around the state requiring her agency to step in and rectify the problems.
“It’s not just in Mercer County,” she said.
The state has a system in place to detect any vaccination errors, she said, and the hold at the health department is not a “punitive” measure, just a temporary hold until confidence is restored.
People need to have confidence in their health care providers and know when they get a vaccine it is the right dose, she said.
The health department cancelled two vaccine clinics last week and is waiting for the hold to be lifted before scheduling another one.
Board member Stacey Hicks said the state sent three people who spent most of Tuesday morning at the health department looking at procedures and protocol.
“They will give their report to their superiors,” he said, and the health department will follow whatever recommendations are made, making a “determination of where we go from here.”
Hicks said the health department has taken care of the community for the last 21 months, administering about 50,000 vaccinations and “saving countless lives in Mercer County.”
“A mistake was made,” he said. “We are very sorry. We will do everything in our power to make sure no mistakes will happen in the future. We want to build the confidence of the citizens of Mercer County back into the Mercer County Health Department.”
Maxwell said employees of the department have worked hard, standing in the cold (for testing and giving vaccinations), giving “110 percent.”
Williams said board members are unpaid volunteers and are “dedicated to the health of the community.”
A problem occurred, he said, and the board will work hard to help improve the overall efficiency of the department “while we wait on the official report.”
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