Texas physician labeled 'thief' for giving out expiring vaccines sues county for $1M over misinformation campaign

Hasan Gokal, MD, who was fired after administering expiring COVID-19 vaccine doses, is suing Harris County Public Health for $1 million for allegedly launching a misinformation campaign and discriminating against him based on his ethnicity, according to a Sept. 22 Washington Post report.

Dr. Gokal formerly worked at Harris County Public Health. On Dec. 29, the physician found an open vial, which would have expired within six hours, at the end of the workday. Dr. Gokal, with the permission of his supervisor, offered the vaccine to healthcare workers and police on site, and called a health department supervisor to locate available patients.

After not finding anyone on site to administer the vaccine to, Dr. Gokal reached out to eligible vaccine recipients who were elderly or had underlying medical conditions. Dr. Gokal said he delivered the last dose to his chronically ill wife after not finding any others.

Dr. Gokal was fired from the health department Jan. 8 and charged with theft by a public servant. His attorney argued that the vaccines in question were administered to eligible vaccine recipients after the physician first offered them to health workers and police on-site and tried to find other recipients. 

Dr. Gokal said in a lawsuit filed Sept. 21 that the county health department shared false information with local police, leading to his misdemeanor charge. A Texas judge dismissed the charges and said the misdemeanor charge lacked probable cause, adding the prosecutor's affidavit was "riddled with sloppiness and errors." The case was taken to a grand jury, which said they wouldn't indict the physician.

Dr. Gokal is suing Harris County Public Health for $1 million for wrongful termination, discriminating against him based on his race and launching a misinformation campaign aimed at getting his medical license removed, Houston Public Media reported.

According to the lawsuit, a human resources director allegedly told Dr. Gokal that he did not equitably distribute the vaccine and gave the vaccine to too many individuals with "Indian sounding names." The lawsuit said that his former employer did not properly investigate the allegations made against him. The health department didn't interview him, never took his statement and conducted no internal investigation, according to the lawsuit. 

The lawsuit also said that former coworkers worked to ruin his reputation by sharing fake information with the Texas Medical Board to push them to revoke his license. The Texas Medical Board found that Dr. Gokal properly administered vaccines that would otherwise be wasted, according to the lawsuit.

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