A pharmacist faces prison after he admitted deliberately spoiling hundreds of doses of coronavirus vaccine.
Steven Brandenburg could serve up to 10 years behind bars after agreeing to plead guilty to damaging a batch of the Moderna vaccine being distributed in Wisconsin.
Officials from Advocate Aurora Health Medical Center in Grafton, Wisconsin, announced in December that an employee had intentionally removed the doses from a freezer, but initially blamed “human error”. The Moderna vaccine needs to be stored at very low temperatures in order to remain viable.
Brandenburg, 46, later came under suspicion as he believed the vaccine was “unsafe”, and he was arrested and charged.
“This individual used his special access to tamper with vials of the much needed Covid-19 vaccine,” said FBI Milwaukee special agent in charge Robert Hughes.
“The FBI takes allegations of consumer product tampering very seriously and will use all available resources to bring those to justice who intentionally put the public’s health at risk.”
Brandenburg has agreed to plead guilty to two counts of “attempting to tamper with consumer products with reckless disregard for the risk that another person will be placed in danger of death or bodily injury”, says the Justice Department.
Authorities say that Brandenburg took the vaccines out of the freezer for several hours on two consecutive nights in an attempt to spoil them.
Officials believe 57 people received doses of that vaccine before Brandenburg’s actions were discovered.
The DOJ says that Brandenburg, whose licence has been suspended, had expressed anti-vaccine sentiments to co-workers for two years.
Brandenburg has not yet formally pleaded guilty but has agreed with prosecutors that he will do so.
In his plea agreement with the Justice Department, Brandenburg admitted to believing in “conspiracy theories” and that he was “sceptical of vaccines in general and the Moderna vaccine specifically”.
He has agreed to pay restitution and will be sentenced at a later date.