What’s the punishment for trying to destroy doses of the COVID-19 vaccine? Decades in prison

What’s the punishment for trying to destroy doses of the COVID-19 vaccine? Decades in prison

After being accused of tampering with vials of the COVID-19 vaccine, a Wisconsin pharmacist is facing 20 years in prison. According to the Associated Press, the pharmacist identified as 46-year-old Steven Brandenburg agreed to plead guilty in federal court on Tuesday. A news release from the Department of Justice confirmed he is charged with “two counts of attempting to tamper with consumer products, described in the plea deal as demonstrating ”reckless disregard for the risk that another person will be placed in danger of death or bodily injury.” Each charge carries a maximum sentence of ten years.

“Tampering with vaccine doses in the midst of a global health crisis calls for a strong response, as reflected by the serious charges the United States has brought today,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian Boynton of the Department of Justice’s Civil Division said in a statement. U.S. Attorney Matthew D. Krueger noted the charges prove that the Justice Department will pursue anyone who tampers with the vaccine, CNN reported.

Court documents stated that Brandenburg not only admitted to tampering with the vaccine doses but admitted he believed the vaccine would mutate recipients’ DNA. “According to the plea agreement, Brandenburg stated that he was skeptical of vaccines in general and the Moderna vaccine specifically,” the department said Tuesday. “Brandenburg had communicated his beliefs about vaccines to his co-workers for at least the past two years.”

Brandenburg was initially arrested under suspicion of reckless endangerment and fired for removing dozens of vials of the coronavirus vaccine from a pharmacy refrigerator on Dec 31. A hospital investigation found he destroyed more than 500 doses, NBC News reported.

According to hospital officials, at least 57 vials of the Moderna vaccine were left out, each vial containing approximately 10 doses of the vaccine. Police officials noted the damage caused “was estimated to be between $8,000 and $11,000.”

“We continue to believe that vaccination is our way out of the pandemic. We are more than disappointed,” the hospital said in a statement, after terminating Brandenburg who admitted he intentionally removed the vaccine from the fridge. “This was a violation of our core values.”

The Moderna vaccine has a 12-hour window once it has been thawed, as a result, most of the doses had to be discarded, however more than 50 doses of the vaccine were administered before the hospital was alerted that they had been thawed once before, NBC News reported. Those 50 doses were rendered ineffective.

Brandenburg not only removed the vials from the fridge on Dec. 24 for three hours but again the next day for nine hours. His thought process, he told a detective, was that the vaccine would be ineffective since it must be stored at specific temperatures. As a result of his actions not only was Brandenburg arrested and fired but his license was suspended by the Wisconsin Pharmacy Examining Board, rendering him unable to practice at a pharmacy in the state.

A sentencing hearing has not yet been scheduled.

“Distributing the COVID-19 vaccine is critical to overcoming this pandemic, which continues to end lives and upend our economy,” Krueger said Tuesday. As of this report, CDC data indicates that more than 23.5 million doses of the vaccine have been administered across the country. First shipments of the COVID-19 vaccine were released on Dec. 14, and about 3.4 million people have received the full two doses since.

Efforts to speed up distribution and purchase more doses have been announced by the Biden administration.

From Daily Kos at Read More. This article is republished from DailyKos under an open content license. Read the original article at DailyKos.

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