A pharmacist from a Wisconsin hospital was arrested Thursday on suspicion of sabotaging more than 500 doses of coronavirus vaccine by deliberately removing them from the refrigerator to spoil them, police and medical authorities said.
The pharmacist, an employee of Aurora Medical Center in Grafton, Wisconsin, was fired but not publicly identified at the time 57 vaccine bottles were released from the refrigerator earlier this week.
Each vial contains 10 doses. Nearly 60 of the doses in question were given before hospital officials found the drugs had been unrefrigerated long enough to render the vaccine ineffective. The remaining more than 500 cans were then discarded.
Moderna Inc, who made the vaccine, has assured the hospital that injecting any of the doses taken from the refrigerator is not a safety issue other than leaving the recipient unprotected from COVID infection, said Dr. Jeff Bahr of the Aurora Health Care Medical Group President.
Neither Aurora Health nor law enforcement offered a possible motive for the sabotage.
Those who received the ineffective doses have been notified and will need to be vaccinated again. The episode means immunization will be delayed for 570 people who should have received their first shot of the two-dose vaccine by now.
Speaking at an online press conference on Thursday, Bahr said there was no evidence that the pharmacist tampered with the vaccines in any way other than removing them from the refrigerator or interfering with other doses.
Grafton police said in a statement that the pharmacist “knew the tainted vaccinations were useless and that people who received the vaccinations would believe they had been vaccinated against the virus when they had not”.
The incident came amid public opinion polls showing widespread skepticism about the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines, which had received emergency clearance from federal regulators just 11 months after the virus emerged in the US.
Some health care workers, who are among the first to receive them, even refuse to take the vaccine.
When first questioned after the misplaced vials were discovered on December 26, the pharmacist said it was an accidental mistake. Upon further review of the matter admitted on Wednesday, the vaccine was purposely removed from the refrigerator, hospital officials said.
The individual, who lives in Grafton, suburbs of Milwaukee, was arrested Thursday and detained in Ozaukee County Jail for reckless security threats, adulteration of a prescription drug and criminal property damage.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and posted from a syndicated feed.)