Probation for former Long Island teacher who gave teen vaccine dose

A former Long Island high school teacher accused of injecting a teen with a COVID-19 vaccine at her home without his parents' knowledge pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and was sentenced to community service and probation, avoiding a felony charge that could have sent her to prison.

Laura Parker Russo, 55, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of attempting the unauthorized practice of medicine when she appeared in a courtroom in Mineola, New York, on Friday. She also pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct.

RELATED: Long Island teacher accused of illegally vaccinating teen

Russo was arrested at the beginning of January, and authorities accused her of giving the 17-year-old, the son of someone she knew, a vaccine dose. Newsday reported that Russo later testified in a hearing over her job that she got the dose when a pharmacist gave her expiring doses after she asked for an empty vial to use as a Christmas ornament.

Keep Children and schools safer with Covid 19 vaccines banner outside Forest Hills High school, Queens, New York

Keep Children and schools safer with Covid 19 vaccines banner outside Forest Hills High school, Queens, New York. (Photo by: Lindsey Nicholson/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Authorities said the teen later told his parents, who called police. Prosecutors had initially charged her with the unauthorized practice of profession, a felony with a penalty of up to four years in prison.

Russo had been a science teacher for many years; she was subsequently fired.

On Friday, Judge Howard Sturim ordered her to fulfill 100 hours of community service over a year, while under interim probation. She was also ordered to go to therapy twice a week and to stay away from the teen.


A healthcare worker prepares a vial of the COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination site in Times Square, New York, the United States, on June 22, 2022. The United States started COVID-19 vaccination for children as young as 6 months old. (Photo by Michael

If Russo meets the community service requirement, prosecutors would vacate the misdemeanor charge.

A spokesman for the Nassau County District Attorney's office said it had agreed to the plea and sentence "based on the defendant’s long-standing ties to the community and her lack of a criminal record."

Russo's attorney, Gerard McCloskey, told Newsday the plea agreement "was in the interest of justice as well as in my client’s best interest."