Pharmacist jailed over illegal vaccine supply


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A Sydney pharmacist has been jailed for eight months for supplying thousands of Gardasil vaccines that were exported under a false declaration to Hong Kong

Mosman pharmacist Katherine Gong was sentenced in Downing Centre Local Court on Wednesday after pleading guilty to three counts of prohibition on wholesale supply of certain substances.

Magistrate Jennifer Atkinson sentenced her to eight months’ prison with six months non-parole.

Ms Gong, who is the owner of the Harmony Pharmacy and Wellness Clinic located in Mosman on Sydney’s north shore, was found to have supplied more than 2,400 Gardasil 9 ‘injections’ to a male associate, who then exported the substance under a false declaration to Hong Kong.

The estimated retail value of the drugs is AUD$500,000 in Australia and more than AUD$600,000 in Hong Kong, as the vaccine is currently experiencing shortages in the region.

Ms Gong had claimed she was trying to help women in Hong Kong and China in supplying the vaccines, although she admitted that she made a profit of about $30,000 which she shared with another chemist, according to AAP court reporter Jodie Stephens.

However the magistrate said Ms Gong acted for financial gain and without regard for public safety.

She said reports had identified risks if the vaccine wasn’t properly stored “and in my view that is a very serious matter”.

Ms Gong will be eligible for parole in May 2019 and her appeal is scheduled to be heard in January.

Ms Gong, who first registered as a pharmacist in 2008, has had her pharmacist registration suspended since she was charged in October when investigators referred her to AHPRA.

Her lawyer told the magistrate that Ms Gong was selling her Mosman business following the charges, reports AAP.

A male associate, to whom she supplied the vaccines that were then exported, has been charged with nine counts of prohibition on wholesale supply of certain substances.

The charges were laid following the joint agency investigation into importation and supply of prohibited drugs by the Australian Federal Police (AFP), NSW Police Force (NSWPF) Organised Crime Squad, Australian Border Force (ABF), Department of Home Affairs (DHA), NSW Crime Commission (NSWCC) and Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC).

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