Pharmacist to plead guilty to intentionally tampering with coronavirus vaccines

An American pharmacist is looking at a lengthy jail sentence after he pleaded guilty to intentionally removing dozens of coronavirus vaccines from a hospital fridge.

Steven Brandenburg, an Advocate Aurora Health pharmacist, was arrested late last month following an investigation into the box of spoiled vials of the Moderna vaccine.

Police in Grafton, Wisconsin said Brandenburg, 46, believed the world was “crashing down” when he removed the vials of vaccine, enough to inoculate around 550 people, from cold storage.

“He’d formed this belief they were unsafe,” Ozaukee County District Attorney Adam Gerol said earlier this month.

Brandenburg has been charged with two counts of attempting to tamper with consumer products, with reckless disregard for the risk that another person will be placed in danger of death or bodily injury, the Department of Justice said.

He faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for each charge.

Brandenburg has not formally pleaded guilty to the charges but has agreed to plead guilty.

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Brandenburg was, according to police, a self-described conspiracy theorist and was distressed he and his wife were divorcing. He had taken a gun to his work twice.

Brandenburg told police he had intentionally tried to ruin the vaccine because he believed it could hurt people by changing their DNA.

Advocate Aurora Health Care Chief Medical Group Officer Jeff Bahr said Brandenburg admitted to deliberately removing the vials from the fridge at the Grafton Medical Centre on Christmas Eve.

He returned the vials to the fridge on Christmas morning but again left them out on Christmas night.

A pharmacy technician found the vials outside the refrigerator on December 26.

Brandenburg told his colleagues he had removed the vials to access something else in the refrigerator and had forgotten to return them however, an investigation later revealed he had intentionally removed them.

The Moderna vaccine is viable for 12 hours out of a fridge meaning hundreds of doses needed to be thrown out.

Pharmacists who were unaware of the breach vaccinated 57 people with the Moderna shot before realising it had been left out, CBS News reported.

The discarded vaccines were worth between $8000 and $11,000.

Brandenburg has been fired and his licence was suspended.

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