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Wisconsin pharmacist pleads guilty to attempting to spoil hundreds of vaccine doses

Wisconsin pharmacist pleads guilty to attempting to spoil hundreds of vaccine doses
© Ozaukee County Sheriff

A Wisconsin pharmacist on Tuesday pleaded guilty in federal court to spoiling hundreds of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine doses. 

Steven Brandenburg, 46, pleaded 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,” according to a press release from the Department of Justice (DOJ).

The charges carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

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“This individual used his special access to tamper with vials of the much needed COVID-19 vaccine. 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,” said FBI Milwaukee Special Agent in Charge Robert Hughes, according to the release.

Officials from Advocate Aurora Health medical center in Grafton, Wis., reported last month that an employee had intentionally removed more than 50 vials of the Moderna vaccine from the freezer.

It was originally believed the incident was due to “human error,” but later, Brandenburg was suspected to have done so on purpose, believing the vaccine was “unsafe.”

The Moderna vaccine must still be stored at colder temperatures in order to remain effective. According to the DOJ, Brandenburg removed the vaccines from the freezer for several hours on two consecutive nights. Fifty-seven people received doses of the vaccine from this batch before Brandenburg's actions were discovered.

The DOJ states that Brandenburg had expressed his feelings regarding vaccines to his co-workers at the hospital for at least two years. His actions are estimated to have ruined more than 500 doses of the vaccine.

Brandenburg’s license was suspended earlier this month after he was arrested by authorities on charges of reckless endangerment, adulterating a prescription drug and criminal damage to property.