The Mercury News Weekend

Pharmacist arrested for spoiled vaccine doses

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MADISON, WIS. >> Authoritie­s arrested a suburban Milwaukee pharmacist Thursday suspected of deliberate­ly ruining hundreds of doses of coronaviru­s vaccine by removing them from refrigerat­ion for two nights.

The arrest marks another setback in what has been a slower, messier start to vaccinate Americans than public health officials had expected. Leaders in Wisconsin and other states have been begging the Trump administra­tion for more doses as health care workers and senior citizens line up for the lifesaving vaccine.

Police in Grafton, about 20 miles north of Milwaukee, said the Advocate Aurora Health pharmacist was arrested on suspicion of reckless endangerme­nt, adulterati­ng a prescripti­on drug and criminal damage to property, all felonies. The pharmacist has been fired and police said in a news release that he was in jail. Police did not identify the pharmacist, saying he has not yet been formally charged.

His motive remains unclear. Police said that detectives believe he knew the spoiled doses would be useless and people who received them would mistakenly think they’d been vaccinated when they hadn’t.

Advocate Aurora Health Care Chief Medical Group Officer Jeff Bahr told reporters during a teleconfer­ence Thursday afternoon that the pharmacist deliberate­ly removed 57 vials that held hundreds of doses of the Moderna vaccine from refrigerat­ion at a Grafton medical center overnight on Dec. 24 into Dec. 25, returned them, then left them out again on the night of Dec. 25 into Saturday. The vials contained enough doses to inoculate 570 people.

A pharmacy technician discovered the vials outside the refrigerat­or on Saturday morning. Bahr said the pharmacist initially said that he had removed the vials to access other items in the refrigerat­or and had inadverten­tly failed to put them back.

The Moderna vaccine is viable for 12 hours outside refrigerat­ion, so workers used the vaccine to inoculate 57 people before discarding the rest. Police said the discarded doses were worth between $8,000 and $11,000.

Bahr said health system officials grew more suspicious of the pharmacist as they reviewed the incident. After multiple interviews, the pharmacist acknowledg­ed Wednesday that he removed the vaccine intentiona­lly over the two nights, Bahr said.

 ?? MARK HOFFMAN — MILWAUKEE JOURNAL-SENTINEL VIA AP ?? Aurora Medical Center in Grafton, Wis., where a pharmacist allegedly deliberate­ly removed hundreds of coronaviru­s vaccine doses from refrigerat­ion and left them out overnight.
MARK HOFFMAN — MILWAUKEE JOURNAL-SENTINEL VIA AP Aurora Medical Center in Grafton, Wis., where a pharmacist allegedly deliberate­ly removed hundreds of coronaviru­s vaccine doses from refrigerat­ion and left them out overnight.

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