A pharmacist accused of destroying hundreds of doses of Covid vaccines told police he did so because he believed the shots would mutate people’s DNA.
Following an investigation last week, Steven Brandenburg, an Advocate Aurora Health pharmacist from Wisconsin in the US was arrested for allegedly ruining 57 vials of the Moderna vaccine, which officials say would have been enough to vaccinate more than 500 people.
Advocate Aurora Health Care chief medical group officer Jeff Bahr said the vials were removed from the fridge overnight for two nights in a row on December 24 and December 25, at the Grafton medical centre.
Brandenburg allegedly returned them to the refrigerator during the day on the 25th but then took them out again that night.
Mr Bahr said Brandenburg had told him that he had removed the vials to access other items in the refrigerator and had inadvertently failed to put them back in.
On December 26, a pharmacy technician discovered the vials outside the refrigerator. The Moderna vaccine is only viable for 12 hours without refrigeration.
Vaccines from the impacted vials were given to 57 people before they were discarded. Police said the discarded doses were worth between $10,000 and $14,000.
According to CNN, Grafton Police Department Detective Sgt. Eric Sutherland said Brandenburg “recklessly endangered the lives of those people” who received the potentially ineffective vaccine.
It is yet to be determined if the doses in question are ineffective and Ozaukee County District Attorney Adam Gerol said the vials will need to be tested by Moderna.
Pharmacist thought vaccine could harm DNA
While Brandenburg initially said he had failed to put the vials back into the fridge by mistake, he has since admitted to authorities he sabotaged the doses on the grounds of baseless conspiracy theories.
During a virtual hearing, Mr Gerol said Brandenburg had “formed this belief they were unsafe”, referring to the vaccines.
He allegedly believed the vaccines would change people’s DNA, which is untrue.
The Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine as well as the Moderna vaccine rely on messenger RNA or mRNA, which is a fairly new technology used in vaccines that experts have been working on for years.
MRNA vaccines help train the immune system to identify the spike protein on the surface of the coronavirus and create an immune response.
Experts have said there is no truth to the claims that the vaccines can genetically modify humans.
Wife says pharmacist claimed the world was ‘crashing down’
Brandenburg’s wife had filed for divorce in June, 2020. The two had been married for eight year and have two children.
In an affidavit, Brandenburg’s wife alleges he had stopped off at her house the day before he was arrested for tampering with the vaccines.
She said he gave her a water filter and two 30-day supplies of food and said the world was “crashing down” and that she was in denial.
He said the government was planning cyber attacks and was going to shut down the power grid.
The wife also alleged Brandenburg was storing food and guns in rental units and said she no longer felt safe around him.
Judge Paul Malloy ordered Brandenburg to be released on a $13,000 signature bond, surrender his firearms, not work in health care and have no contact with Aurora employees.
Australia’s vaccine rollout pushed forward
Australia will be among the first countries to conditionally approve the Pfizer vaccine for Covid-19, following a decision to bring forward the rollout to early March.
The rollout was initially slated to start in late March, however the federal government, acting on health advice, says an earlier date is achievable.
"As data and regulatory guidance have been provided we have progressively been able to bring forward our provisional rollout from mid-year to the second quarter to late March and now early March," a spokesman for Health Minister Greg Hunt said on Wednesday.
"Our number one priority is safety. Public confidence in safety reduces vaccine hesitancy."
The Pfizer vaccine is one of four vaccines the Australian government has purchased for a total projected supply of 134.8 million units.
With Associated Press, Reuters and AAP.
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