A suburban Milwaukee pharmacist has been arrested on suspicion of deliberately ruining hundreds of doses of the coronavirus vaccine by removing them from refrigeration for two nights. The arrest marks another setback to the start of the vaccination process for Americans, as Wisconsin leaders and other states are looking to the federal government to distribute more doses for healthcare workers and senior citizens.
According to the Chicago Tribune, police in Grafton, which is approximately 20 miles north of Milwaukee, said the Advocate Aurora Health pharmacist was arrested on allegations of reckless endangerment, adulterating a prescription drug, and criminal damage to property—all of which are felonies. While the identity of the pharmacist has not been revealed and it’s currently unclear if the individual is in jail, he has been fired from their position.
In a teleconference on December 31, Advocate Aurora Health Care Chief Medical Group Officer Jeff Bahr told reporters that the pharmacist intentionally removed 57 vials that held hundreds of doses of the Moderna vaccine from refrigeration at a Grafton medical center overnight on December 45 into December 25. He returned them but left them out against on the night of December 25. The vials contained enough doses to inoculate nearly 600 people.
On the morning of the 26th, a pharmacy technician discovered the vials outside the refrigerator. Bahr said the pharmacist initially said he removed the vials to access other items in the fridge and failed to put them back. Health system officials grew suspicious as they reviewed the story and after multiple interviews, the pharmacist confessed to intentionally removing the vaccines. The Moderna vaccine is viable for 12 hours outside of refrigeration, so workers used the vaccine to inoculate 57 people before throwing what remained out, with an estimated price tag between $8,000 and $11,000.
The 57 individuals who were vaccinated with the ruined vaccine are not at any risk of health complications, according to Moderna, but the hospital is closely monitoring those individuals. It’s likely the vaccine will have no effect and provide no protection from COVID-19.
At this time, Advocate Aurora Health Care has declined to comment on the pharmacists’ motive, but they want to ensure people that the hospital system’s security protocols are sound: “This was a situation involving a bad actor, as opposed to a bad process.”
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