Pharmacist arrested over COVID-19 vaccine sabotage

A US hospital pharmacist accused of tampering with hundreds of COVID-19 vaccine doses is reportedly a “conspiracy theorist”

A Wisconsin hospital pharmacist is alleged to have intentionally sabotaged more than 500 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine at his workplace, according to media reports.

The act occurred a few weeks ago, as the state was receiving thousands of doses of vaccines and working to administer them to frontline healthcare workers.

Aurora Medical Center Grafton learned in late December that 57 vials of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine had been removed from a pharmacy refrigerator at the centre, with each vial containing 10 doses.

According to a press release, they were initially led to believe this occurred due to “inadvertent human error”.

However the pharmacist eventually acknowledged that he intentionally removed the vials from refrigeration and left them out overnight. Police said he did this knowing it would render the vaccines “useless”.

His actions resulted in more than 500 doses of vaccine being discarded.

“We are more than disappointed that this individual’s actions will result in a delay of more than 500 people receiving their vaccine,” said the medical centre. They confirmed the individual is no longer employed at the centre.

The Moderna vaccine must be stored in a freezer between -25°C and -15°C or refrigerated between 2°C and 8°C until it is used, although it does not require the -70°C temperature that the Pfizer vaccine does.

A pharmacy tech reportedly found the vials sitting out and put them back in the refrigerator. Nearly 60 doses of the compromised vaccine were delivered before hospital officials determined they had been left out long enough to be “rendered ineffective”.

Moderna reassured officials that they would not harm the 57 individuals who received them, though the recipients were left unprotected from COVID-19 infection.

Local police said the pharmacist was “an admitted conspiracy theorist” who believed the vaccine could harm people and “change their DNA”, according to the New York Times.

The man was arrested on felony charges of reckless endangerment and property damage. Prosecutors have reportedly said the charges could be dropped to a single misdemeanor if the vials are tested and found to be still usable.

The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is a messenger RNA vaccine—also called an mRNA vaccine.

While COVID-19 mRNA vaccines give instructions to cells, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has emphasised that they “do not affect or interact with our DNA in any way”.

“mRNA never enters the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA (genetic material) is kept,” the CDC said, adding that “the cell breaks down and gets rid of the mRNA soon after it is finished using the instructions”.

This article was prepared with information from the New York Times, CNN, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Reuters among other sources.

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