Why a Wisconsin Pharmacist Allegedly Destroyed COVID-19 Vaccines

Wisconsin pharmacist Steven Brandenburg was arrested on December 31 2020 after he reportedly destroyed 57 vials (or more than 500 doses) of coronavirus vaccine, possibly intentionally.

On January 4 2020, Ozaukee County District Attorney Adam Gerol addressed Brandenburg’s purported motive during a virtual hearing — describing Brandenburg as “an admitted conspiracy theorist,” per the Associated Press:

Police in Grafton, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) north of Milwaukee, arrested Advocate Aurora Health pharmacist Steven Brandenburg last week following an investigation into the 57 spoiled vials of the Moderna vaccine, which officials say contained enough doses to inoculate more than 500 people. Charges are pending.

“He’d formed this belief they were unsafe,” Ozaukee County District Attorney Adam Gerol said during a virtual hearing. He added that Brandenburg was upset because he was in the midst of divorcing his wife, and an Aurora employee said Brandenburg had taken a gun to work twice.

A detective wrote in a probable cause statement that Brandenburg, 46, is an admitted conspiracy theorist and that he told investigators he intentionally tried to ruin the vaccine because it could hurt people by changing their DNA.

Wisconsin news station WISN reported that Brandenburg admitted to “deliberately removing the vials from refrigeration” twice, between December 24 and 25 2020, and again between December 25 and 26 2020; a technician observed the vials outside the unit on December 26 2020.

Brandenburg appeared at the virtual hearing, but Gerol indicated that charges had not yet been filed as of January 4 2020:

The Ozaukee County District Attorney Adam Gerol told a judge it remains unclear if the vials Brandenburg allegedly removed were destroyed or damaged by Aurora Grafton Medical Center.

That could dramatically impact the charges from felony to misdemeanor.

Gerol said he needs clarification from Aurora and the vials may also need to be tested by Moderna … He was fired after admitting to intentionally damaging the vaccines.

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.

Advocate Aurora Health Care’s chief medical group officer Jeff Bahr was quoted by WISC as saying that 57 vials of the affected vaccine administered on December 26 2020 were likely to have been rendered ineffective. NPR reported that 570 doses of the coronavirus vaccine had to be discarded:

However, as a result of Brandenburg’s tampering, health care workers were forced to discard about 570 doses of the potentially life-saving medicine. Hospital officials said 57 individuals did receive injections of what may have been useless doses. Those patients have been notified and are not at any risk of adverse health effects, hospital officials said on Friday.

The Moderna vials must be stored between 36 to 46 degrees Fahrenheit. They can remain effective for up to 12 hours if left at room temperature. Beyond that, the drug is no longer effective.

The pharmacist last week told investigators he knew “that people who received the vaccinations would think they had been vaccinated against the virus when in fact they were not,” officials said.

Brandenburg was released on a $10,000 signature bond, which carried conditions requiring him to surrender firearms and refrain from any work in the healthcare system.