A former hospital pharmacist has been arrested for allegedly “tampering with and causing the destruction” of 57 vials of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, rendering 570 doses unusable by intentionally removing them from a pharmacy refrigerator.
Police in Grafton, Wisconsin, announced the arrest Thursday. Police were called to Advocate Aurora Health Hospital after the former pharmacist admitted the vials were left out overnight, knowing that all 10 doses in each vial would indeed be destroyed.
The unnamed suspect has been charged with recklessly endangering first degree security, tampering with a prescription drug and criminal damage to property. Patients were given doses from the spoiled vials, which health officials said should pose no health problems beyond “unnecessary” inoculations.
“The value of the damaged doses has been estimated between 8,000 and 11,000 dollars”, according to a statement from the Grafton Police Department Newsweek States. “Grafton detectives indicate that the individual knew that the spoiled vaccinations would be unnecessary and that people who had received the vaccinations would think they had been vaccinated against the virus when in fact they were not.”
The hospital initially attributed the incident, which occurred on December 25, to unintentional human error. Further examination of the matter led the pharmacist to admit that the doses were intentionally destroyed in a written statement to public safety officials at Aurora Health, police said.
“We immediately initiated an internal review and were led to believe this was due to inadvertent human error. The person in question today admitted that he intentionally removed the vaccine from the refrigeration,” said Wednesday lawyer Aurora Health in a statement.
“We continue to believe that vaccination is our way out of the pandemic,” the statement continued. “We are more than disappointed that the actions of this person are causing a delay of more than 500 people receiving their vaccine. It was a violation of our core values and the person is no longer employed by us.
The distribution of the two vaccines approved for emergency use in the United States, developed by Moderna and Pfizer / BioNTech, has been slower than initially promised. Although President Donald Trump said 100 million doses would be available by the end of 2020, only 12.4 million had been distributed by the last day of the year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Just under 2.8 million people received their first dose of the vaccine nationwide. The two approved vaccines require two doses per patient, given approximately one month apart. There have been 159,800 doses of the vaccine distributed in Wisconsin, with 37,446 state residents having already received the first dose.