Authorities have arrested a former Milwaukee pharmacist for intentionally destroying more than 500 doses of coronavirus vaccine last week.
A pharmacist at Advocate Aurora Health “intentionally” removed 57 vials of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine from refrigeration, causing the vaccines to be ineffective and be discarded. Each vial has 10 doses.
In a written statement to Aurora Health officials, the pharmacist, whose identity was not released, admitted “to intentionally removing the vaccine knowing that if not properly stored the vaccine would be ineffective.” He was immediately fired from the hospital system.
The Grafton Police Department arrested the individual Thursday on recommended charges of first-degree recklessly endangering safety, adulterating a prescription drug and criminal damage to property.
Aurora Health initially said the doses were accidentally taken out from refrigeration after a pharmacy technician discovered the vials outside the refrigerator on Dec. 25.
On Wednesday, the hospital notified Grafton police of the incident after the pharmacist admitted to intentionally removing the vials to render them ineffective. The vials were removed from refrigeration on two separate occasions — on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Health care workers discarded 570 doses of the vaccine — which is estimated to value between $8,000 and $11,000 — but not before some people received the spoiled doses. The hospital system has already notified the 57 individuals who received doses of the spoiled vaccine.
Jeff Bahr, the president of Aurora Health Care Medical Group, said they found no evidence to suggest that the pharmacist had tampered with the vaccine other than removing it from refrigeration.
The spoiled vaccines would not harm any individual who received them. However, storing the vaccines at room temperature would cause the mRNA molecules in the vaccine to fall apart, making it ineffective against COVID-19, according to Moderna.
Aurora Health said no other employees were involved in the incident.
“We continue to believe that vaccination is our way out of the pandemic. We are more than disappointed that this individual’s action will result in a delay of more than 500 people receiving their vaccine,” a statement from the hospital system read.
It is unclear what could have motivated the pharmacist to remove the vaccines from refrigeration. The incident is being investigated by the Grafton police, the FBI and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.