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Texas doctor charged with stealing coronavirus vaccine

A doctor in Texas has been charged with intentionally stealing a vial of the coronavirus vaccine, according to a county prosecutor.

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg announced on Thursday that Hasan Gokal was charged with theft by a public servant for taking a vial of COVID-19 vaccine. He is facing up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine.

Gokal, a doctor with Harris County Public Health, stole a vial that contained nine doses of a vaccine while working at a county vaccination site in Humble, Texas, on Dec. 29. He told a fellow employee a week later, and that employee reported him to his supervisors.

The health department investigated the matter, and he was fired. Ogg said Gokal "disregarded county protocols in place to ensure vaccine is not wasted but administered to populations and front-line workers on a waiting list."

"He abused his position to place his friends and family in line in front of people who had gone through the lawful process to be there," Ogg said in a statement. "What he did was illegal and he'll be held accountable under the law."

Paul Doyle, Gokal's attorney, said in a statement that the doctor was "a dedicated public servant who ensured that COVID-19 vaccine dosages that would have otherwise expired went into the arms of people who met the criteria for receiving it," CNN reported.

"Harris County would have preferred Dr. Gokal let the vaccines go to waste and are attempting to disparage this man's reputation in the process to support this policy," the statement said.

In an emailed statement on Friday, the health department said it "cannot comment on this topic, given that this is an ongoing investigation." 

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