In what might be the strangest news of this week, a pharmacist in Milwaukee, U.S. has been arrested for tampering with over 550 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, reported NPR. Grafton Police Department officials revealed that the pharmacist was being held on recommended charges of first-degree recklessly endangering safety, adulterating a prescription drug, and criminal damage to property.
A malicious action
The pharmacist has also been fired from the Advocate Aurora Health hospital system. Officials released a written statement saying that the pharmacist responsible for the damaged vials admitted to "intentionally removing the vaccine knowing that if not properly stored, the vaccine would be ineffective." No word yet has been given as to why the man, who has yet to be named by officials, would resort to such an action.
Chief Aurora Medical Group Officer Jeff Bahr told reporters in a teleconference on Thursday that the now detained pharmacist deliberately removed the vials from refrigeration twice on December 24 and on December 25. The vials were spotted by a pharmacy technician on the 25th who informed his superiors. This resulted in 570 doses being thrown out.
Patients were given the ineffective vials
Making matters even worse, it was also revealed that some 57 patients had been given the ineffective vials. These patients will likely not suffer side-effects but they will need to be vaccinated again.
The arrested pharmacist further told the authorities that he knew "that people who received the vaccinations would think they had been vaccinated against the virus when in fact they were not."
The Moderna vaccine, which shows 100% efficacy against severe cases, must be stored between 36 to 46 degrees Fahrenheit (2.2 to 7.7 degrees Celsius) in order to remain effective. At room temperature, it can only last 12 hours before it becomes useless. The total cost of losing these doses is estimated to be between $8,000 and $11,000.