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Authorities arrest Wisconsin pharmacist accused of intentionally spoiling coronavirus vaccine

Authorities in Wisconsin arrested a pharmacist Thursday suspected of intentionally ruining hundreds of doses of coronavirus vaccine by taking them out of refrigeration for two nights.

According to the Grafton Police Department, the former Advocate Aurora Health pharmacist was arrested on suspicion of reckless endangerment, adulterating a prescription drug, and criminal damage to property, The Associated Press reported.

Jeff Bahr, president of Aurora Healthcare Medical Group said during a Zoom press call Thursday that a now-fired pharmacy technician removed 57 vials of Moderna vaccine from cold storage — enough for about 570 doses — and rendered them denatured, or made them less effective and even ineffective.

Health care workers used the denatured vaccine doses to inoculate 57 people. Bahr said the doses were less effective and potentially ineffective.

"In the subsequent hours clinical leaders conferred with one another," said Bahr. "And based on the information available determined that the vaccine was still able to be administered on the morning of December 26th, given the 12 hour period of viability after removal from refrigeration."

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The AP reported authorities released a statement saying the suspect was in jail but did not release personal information because he has not yet been formally charged.

"The pharmacist responsible for removing the vials maintained that this was an inadvertent error that occurred while the individual was accessing other items from the same refrigerator," Bahr said, adding that the suspect later confessed the removal was intentional.

When asked about the pharmacist's motive for removing the doses from refrigeration, Bahr said Aurora was not able to make a judgment and deferred questions to local authorities

Patrick Brock, Sergeant for the Grafton Police Department told The Hill, "The case will be reviewed by the Ozaukee County District Attorney’s Office on Monday and we will release digital media and the individual’s name at that time should charges be issued."

The department added the value of the spoiled doses ranged "between $8,000 and $11,000."

“We continue to believe that vaccination is our way out of the pandemic. We are more than disappointed that this individual’s actions will result in a delay of more than 500 people receiving their vaccine,” the health care system said in a statement.

Updated 9:05 p.m.