Pharmacist attempted to spoil COVID-19 vaccine doses

57+possibly-compromised+doses+were+given+to+patients+before+the+hospital+was+aware+of+Brandenburg%E2%80%99s+tampering.

Ozaukee County Sheriff/AP

57 possibly-compromised doses were given to patients before the hospital was aware of Brandenburg’s tampering.

 Wisconsin pharmacist Steven Brandenburg was arrested last month on accusations of trying to let more than 500 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine spoil and has been charged with attempted damage to property.

On Dec. 24, Brandenburg intentionally left out vaccine doses, 57 of which were unknowingly administered to patients before the hospital was made aware of them. Brandenburg was later arrested on Dec. 31 and scheduled for a hearing on Jan. 19.

According to court records, Brandenburg pleaded not guilty at his hearing and is now scheduled for more hearings in March.

The former Aurora Health Care worker has been charged with a Class A misdemeanor in Ozaukee County Circuit Court, which can come with a fine of up to $10,000 and up to nine months of prison time.

“Brandenburg’s possible punishments are not enough because he attempted to render hundreds of vaccines useless as well as put many others at risk,” said Elizabeth Kao, a sophomore.

According to Moderna’s storage and handling guidelines, the vaccine is meant to be stored between 34-46 degrees Fahrenheit before usage and only a little warmer (around 46-77 degrees Fahrenheit) for up to 12 hours before the usage.

“The COVID-19 vaccine is a bit different from regular vaccines because the demand is so much higher than the supply, and it is literally life-saving,” said Ana Hoffman, a junior.

In an interview with a local news station, Adam Gerol, the district attorney in Ozaukee County, said that it is likely that the doses were not actually compromised. A resident expert said in a criminal complaint, “That said, it is being sent to Moderna for further testing. If something were to come up, the charges might change.”

Gerol mentioned that Brandenburg believed the vaccine to be harmful, prompting these actions. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has reviewed the vaccine, and while they haven’t approved it for normal use, it has been deemed safe and effective enough to be issued with Emergency Usage Authorization (AUE) given the current conditions of the pandemic.

“Because it was intentional, he should be punished, but the punishment itself should not be too serious,” said Eric Zhai, a sophomore.

“I don’t understand how letting the vaccines spoil would make them safer if you believe that they are not safe, to begin with,” Hoffman said. “It’s good that he is being fined and may face jail time, partly as an example and partly because there should be consequences for one’s actions.”

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