A pharmacist accused of trying to destroy more than 500 doses of COVID-19 vaccine at a Wisconsin hospital in December was charged with a misdemeanor, numerous sources reported.
Stephen Brandenburg, 46, reportedly confessed to authorities that he had intentionally removed 57 vials of Moderna vaccine, which must be kept at temperatures ranging between 36 degrees and 46 degrees Fahrenheit, from their refrigerated storage with the goal of rendering them ineffective, ABC reported.
— New York Post (@nypost) January 14, 2021
Brandenburg had first told employers at Aurora Medical Center in Grafton that he left more than 500 vaccine doses out of the refrigerator by accident, but later admitted he did so on purpose. (RELATED: Hospital Employee Arrested After Intentionally Destroying Doses Of COVID-19 Vaccine)
The vaccine is kept at negative four degrees Fahrenheit when shipped between healthcare facilities, and is only effective at room temperature for 12 hours. Authorities reportedly said that Brandenburg’s alleged efforts to make the doses unusable may not have succeeded, and Moderna was still conducting lab testing to determine the condition of the doses. But evidence showed that as of Tuesday, “the vaccine remains viable,” Ozaukee County District Attorney Adam Gerol said, according to ABC.
The vaccines were administered to 57 people before the hospital realized that they had been outside of the refrigerator for too long, CBS 58 Milwaukee reported. The recipients of those doses were contacted.
Brandenburg is “an admitted conspiracy theorist,” authorities said, according to ABC. He was allegedly motivated to spoil the vaccine because of research that led him to believe that the vaccine was “unsafe for people and altered their DNA.”
Brandenburg pled not guilty to the misdemeanor charge of attempted felony criminal damage to property. If convicted, he faces up to nine months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. The severity of the punishment could depend on how many vaccine doses were ultimately spoiled. Police estimate that the cost of the 57 vials, which contain 10 doses each, is valued at $11,000, ABC reported.
The Wisconsin Pharmacy Board voted to suspend Brandenburg’s license pending the outcome of the case against him, which will also involve the board’s own disciplinary process.
Brandenburg was released on bond Jan. 4 and turned over four firearms. He was also ordered not to work in any capacity as a pharmacist, or leave the state without court approval, according to ABC.
During the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) review of the Moderna vaccine, the FDA found there were “no specific safety concerns” and that the frequency of “serious adverse events” after vaccine administration was low.