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Fired Texas doctor defends giving away expiring COVID-19 vaccine doses

Texas doctor Hasan Gokal, who was fired and charged with stealing coronavirus vaccine doses, defended his decision, saying he wasn't going to let vaccine doses expire and go to waste.

"This is a 5-million person county and we had the first 3,000 thousand doses. There was no room for throwing any of it out. Ever," Gokal, previously a doctor with Texas' Harris County Public Health Department and medical director for the county’s vaccine rollout, said in an interview with CBS News.

"When you have something so precious, life-saving, it would hurt you to throw it away," he added.

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The incident happened on Dec. 29 and Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg charged him shortly after for stealing 10 doses at a vaccination site. The charge could lead to a $4,000 fine and a year in jail. 

Gokal told CBS News that there were 10 doses left at a vaccination site at the end of the night, and he needed to administer them in six hours or else they would expire. 

Gokal wanted to use the last 10 doses and checked with all employees and police who were at the vaccination event, but they either already had the vaccine or declined it. He says he checked with a Harris County public health official to see if he could find 10 people to administer it to and the official agreed.

"At that point, I start going through my phone list, thinking of who might" qualify for the vaccine, Gokal told CBS News. 

He found nine people who were elderly or had health conditions that put them at higher risk of death from the virus. In the last minutes before the vaccine expired, he vaccinated his wife since he could not find anyone else and there was only one dose left. 

His wife has pulmonary sarcoidosis, a lung disease, which he believed qualified her for the vaccine. 

“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.”

A judge dismissed the charges, but Ogg is still taking the case to a grand jury.