Wisconsin pharmacist arrested on suspicion of tampering with COVID-19 vaccines believed they were 'unsafe'

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The pharmacist accused of purposefully spoiling 570 doses of COVID-19 vaccine at Grafton, Wis.-based Aurora Medical Center did so because he didn't think they were safe, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. 

The pharmacist told investigators he believed the vaccine could harm patients or change their DNA, according to a probable cause statement from Grafton police. 

"He'd formed this belief they were unsafe," Adam Gerol, Ozaukee County district attorney, said during a virtual hearing, according to local ABC affiliate KMBC

While Grafton police have not released a name, Ozaukee County Jail records show a licensed pharmacist by the name of Steven Brandenburg was arrested Dec. 31 on pending charges of first degree recklessly endangering society, adulterating a prescription drug and criminal damage to property, according to the Journal. Mr. Brandenburg was released from county jail Jan. 4 on a signature bond after an initial court appearance via Zoom with his attorney, Jason Baltz. 

Mr. Gerol told Circuit Judge Paul Malloy that the vials removed from refrigeration have not been destroyed and are still in the hospital's possession, the Journal reports. Mr. Gerol said he is working with Moderna to evaluate whether the vaccines are still viable. If they are, the highest charge Mr. Brandenburg would face would be attempted criminal damage to property, a misdemeanor. Mr. Gerol is also working with the U.S. Attorney's Office, which could bring federal charges against the pharmacist. He also said some of Mr. Brandenburg's co-workers believe the pharmacist brought a gun to work at least twice. 

 

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