Teacher Who Gave Teen Vaccine Shot Avoids Prison

Laura Russo pleads guilty to lesser charge
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 5, 2022 10:34 AM CST
Updated Dec 17, 2022 12:47 PM CST
Long Island Teacher Accused of Dosing Teen With Vaccine
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/Irina Zharkova)
UPDATE Dec 17, 2022 12:47 PM CST

A high school teacher fired after being accused of injecting a teenager with a coronavirus vaccine without his parents knowing has avoided a prison sentence. Laura Russo pleaded guilty Friday to a misdemeanor count of attempting the unauthorized practice of medicine in court in Mineola, New York. She also entered a guilty plea to a disorderly conduct charge, the AP reports. Russo first was charged with the unauthorized practice of a profession, a felony that could result in as long as four years in prison. The judge ordered probation, 100 hours of community service over a year and therapy sessions twice weekly. Russo also must stay away from the teenager.

Jan 5, 2022 10:34 AM CST

A Long Island high school science teacher accused of administering a COVID vaccine to a teen in her home is in trouble with her school district and the law. The Washington Post reports that Laura Russo, a 54-year-old biology teacher for Herricks Public Schools, was arrested for unauthorized practice of a profession; she is not a medical professional. Per a statement from the Nassau County Police Department, the arrest happened on New Year's Eve in Russo's home in Sea Cliff, after she allegedly gave an un-IDed 17-year-old boy a COVID shot there. The statement states the teen went home after the DIY vaccination and told his mother what had happened, and she promptly called police. Russo was then arrested without incident, authorities say.

NBC New York links to purported video of the vaccination. It shows a young man with a blurred-out face sitting at a table and getting his arm cleaned prior to a middle-aged woman seen in the frame apparently giving him the shot. "There you go, at-home vaccine," a young man's voice can be heard saying in the clip. Authorities tell the news outlet that Russo had a vial of approved vaccine in her home, though it's not clear where she got it from, and that the teen who received the vax was a friend of her son's who wanted to get vaccinated but whose own mom wouldn't allow it. NBC also notes that the vaccine that was administered seemed to be the Johnson & Johnson one-dose version, which so far has only been approved in the US for adults 18 and over.

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"Besides being illegal, it's just not a smart thing to do," says Dr. Aaron Glatt of the Mount Sinai South Nassau health system. "An authorized, licensed professional should be providing vaccines to know how to give them properly to make sure if there's a complication that [it] can be dealt with immediately and very efficiently." As for the district, superintendent Fino Celano says in a statement that "the individual in question is a district employee who has been removed from the classroom and reassigned pending the outcome of the investigation." Supporters of Russo, meanwhile, says she's a well-respected teacher, with one local deli owner telling CBS New York that "it's too quick to rush to judgment." Russo is set to appear in court on Jan. 21. She could see up to four years in prison if convicted. (More coronavirus vaccine stories.)

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