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KOLD Investigates: New research finds improper COVID-19 vaccination technique could lower effectiveness

Published: Aug. 26, 2021 at 10:44 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - As people begin to schedule their appointments for booster shots, the KOLD Investigates Team has new information on the proper way to administer the COVID-19 vaccine.

The current FDA and manufacturer guidelines mandate intramuscular administration of the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines because other administration routes may not be as effective.

You may remember this story from March 2021, when the KOLD Investigates Team noticed many people pinching or bunching the arm as they injected the vaccine.

We asked Tucson family physician Dr. Cadey Harrel to show us the proper way to administer a COVID-19 mRNA vaccine.

Harrel said instead of pinching the skin, she spreads the skin to create a flat surface when injecting an intramuscular vaccine.

Following our investigation, the KOLD Investigates Team received an email from Dr. Nimrod Rahamimov at the Galilee Medical Center in Nahariyya, Israel.

Rahamimov is the head of the Department of Orthopedics and Spine Surgery at the Galilee Medical Center.

Rahamimov said he noticed people’s arms being pinched as COVID-19 vaccines were administered. He searched the medical literature and scholarly articles for any information on concerns of improper COVID mRNA vaccine administration.

“There was absolutely nothing,” Rahamimov said.

So, he expanded his search, which can be read HERE.

“I was Googling to see if it was mentioned anywhere else and I fell on your story,” Rahamimov said.

Rahamimov said Harrel’s demonstration is correct, but he wanted to find out what would happen if the vaccine was administered into a pinched arm. His hypothesis was that skin bunching might prevent the needle from reaching the muscle, instead, injecting the vaccine into subcutaneous fat.

To put this theory to the test, Rahamimov recruited 60 volunteers, both males and females.

Using an ultrasound machine, his team measured the skin-to-muscle distance in three positions: flat, skin bunching and muscle bunching.

In both females and males, they found a significant difference between flat and skin bunching.

When radiologists practiced skin bunching, the distance from the skin to the muscle increased by approximately 50 percent.

According to his findings, in 10 percent of all volunteers, skin bunching increased the skin-to-muscle distance to the threshold of 20 mm or more, “leading to insufficient muscle penetration concerns.”

“If people are a bit overweight, if they have a lot of subcutaneous fat, then probably that needle will not reach the deltoid muscle and mRNA based vaccines need to reach the deltoid muscle to be effective,” Rahamimov said.

As for the muscle bunching technique, Rahamimov said it is only recommended in patients with suspected lower muscle mass, but in common practice this recommendation is difficult to implement for two reasons: BMI is not always calculated, especially in mass-immunization efforts such as the current pandemic, and because muscle bunching requires anatomical understanding and some practice to do correctly.

“It is not as trivial as people think it is. In most cases when you try to do muscle bunching you actually do skin bunching,” Rahamimov said.

According to the Galilee Medical Center’s research, radiologists involved in the study believe the practice of muscle bunching, “should be abandoned altogether to prevent inadvertent skin bunching and subcutaneous injection instead.”

Rahamimov’s team determined skin bunching will, “prevent adequate intramuscular injection of vaccines in a small percentage of persons, but as hundreds of millions are expected to receive mRNA vaccines in the coming months, the multiplied result can have significant personal and societal consequences for millions of people globally, especially in obese populations, and therefore this practice should be strictly discouraged.”

So how effective is a vaccine that is administered into the subcutaneously fat as opposed to the muscle?

It is an answer we still do not have. Rahamimov said the vaccines are too precious to waste on a study where they are improperly administered.

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