Patients who received COVID-19 vaccinations at a Colorado Springs medical spa were feeling frustrated and inconvenienced Wednesday after learning they should consider their doses invalid and restart their shot series.
Colorado health officials announced late Tuesday that people who received an initial dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine at Dr. Moma Health and Wellness Clinic, located inside the Satellite Hotel in southeast Colorado Springs, should consider that dose invalid and start their shots again. Those who received two doses at the clinic should consider them both invalid and get one additional dose of the vaccine — 21 days after the last dose for Pfizer recipients, and 28 days afterward for Moderna recipients, officials said.
“I don’t like the idea of possibly having one less shot of vaccine, but I’m not thrilled that I could possibly need to do three shots,” said Elizabeth Tate, a Denver resident who traveled to Colorado Springs to receive her first shot of the Pfizer vaccine at the clinic on March 26. “Neither one of those scenarios is ideal for me.”
Allie Sibole wasn’t concerned “from a long-term standpoint” about her health or worsened side effects from the invalid dose, she said. The Fort Collins resident traveled to Colorado Springs to receive her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine at Dr. Moma Health and Wellness Clinic on April 2.
But “it is frustrating that I’ll never know whether my first dose was effective or not,” she said, adding that it was inconvenient she would have to schedule additional vaccine doses.
“Thankfully I can get my follow-up shots here in Fort Collins,” Sibole said.
Most people only received a single dose of the vaccine at the clinic, health officials said in a news release Tuesday. The medical spa had its vaccination privileges suspended and thousands of doses confiscated last Friday after El Paso County Public Health officials observed the clinic during its vaccination process and reported potential irregularities in the handling and storage of the vaccines there.
After investigating the clinic’s storage, handling and record-keeping practices, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment announced Tuesday it could not determine the viability of the vaccines.
But it was unclear how the clinic failed to properly store, handle and keep records of the vaccines, and the state health department did not immediately return the Gazette’s request for more information Wednesday.
“I was disappointed that so many guidelines for safe vaccinations weren’t followed,” Sibole said. “The thought of extending the vaccination series another three weeks — what are the side effects going to be like?”
Sylvienash Moma, who holds a doctorate in nursing practice degree and runs the clinic, declined to comment from her office Wednesday, but said she expected her office would release a formal statement on the matter in the coming days.
Anne Marie Pacitto, who received her first dose of the Moderna vaccine at the clinic on March 31, said knowing she must be revaccinated was “a lot to process.”
“I’m speechless,” she said Wednesday after hearing the news for the first time from a Gazette reporter. Pacitto said she had not received communication from the state about what next steps to take.
“I do feel like a vaccine guinea pig and I do feel vulnerable,” she said. “I don’t think anything bad is going to happen, but this is so new and I don’t know how my health is going to be affected.”
Her next step, she said, will be to “scour” state and county health department websites to find out where she can receive additional vaccinations. “I have to take my health into my own hands, and I have to do my own due diligence on these providers,” she said.
Others who were inoculated at the clinic said they were not worried about needing to take multiple doses of vaccine.
On a public Facebook page created this week for patients who received at least one COVID-19 vaccination from the Dr. Moma Health and Wellness Clinic, Mark Haselmaier wrote in a post Wednesday morning, “My mentality from the second I learned the vaccine was viable was, ‘Shoot me up, doc.’ And it remains that way. Shoot me up, doc; put me in, coach.”
Haselmaier said he received his first round of vaccine on April 3 and is ready to receive his restarted first round of vaccine April 24. He did not say which vaccine he received.
“Has anyone considered that we may actually be more protected from COVID than the rest of the population when this is all said and done?” he wrote.
The state health department said in a news release late Tuesday that the CDC does not recommend people get more than three doses of any COVID-19 vaccine regardless of validity, citing lack of clinical data.
It was unclear whether a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine could negatively affect a person’s health, though Pfizer, Inc. and BioNTech SE announced in late February they have begun evaluating the safety of a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine "to understand the effect of a booster on immunity against COVID-19."
The study is using participants from the Phase 1 study in the United States, giving them a booster of the current vaccine six to 12 months after receiving their initial two-dose regimen, according to a joint press release.
Several patients at the clinic also said they were concerned after noticing a number of negative reviews criticizing the vaccination clinic on Google were being removed.
But Moma said Wednesday she did not have knowledge about what was happening to the negative reviews.
“I have no control over what is on my Google reviews,” she said. “I cannot call Google and tell them what to do with my reviews. The most I can do is respond.”
Coloradans who had an appointment canceled at Dr. Moma Health and Wellness Clinic and have not yet received their first dose of vaccine, or who need an additional shot, can use the state health department’s online list of providers to locate a new provider and schedule a vaccination, officials said.
The list is available at covid19.colorado.gov/for-coloradans/vaccine/where-can-i-get-vaccinated.