Prosecutor: Wisconsin pharmacist thought vaccine was unsafe

Published: Jan. 4, 2021 at 2:38 PM CST
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PORT WASHINGTON, Wis. (AP) - A prosecutor says a Wisconsin pharmacist told police he tried to ruin hundreds of doses of coronavirus vaccine because he felt the shots weren’t safe.

As Action 2 News previously reported, police in Grafton, which is located about 20 miles north of Milwaukee, arrested Advocate Aurora Health pharmacist Steven Brandenburg last week following an investigation into the 57 spoiled vials of the Moderna vaccine.

Officials say the vials contained enough doses to inoculate more than 500 people.

The spoiled doses are worth an estimated $8,000-$11,000, according to police.

Ozaukee County District Attorney Adam Gerol said during a virtual hearing Monday that Brandenburg had formed a belief that the vaccine was unsafe.

Gerol didn’t explain why the pharmacist held that belief, however court documents state Brandenburg told police he believed the shots would mutate people’s DNA.

Detectives say in court documents that Brandenburg was an admitted conspiracy theorist.

Health experts say there is no truth to claims that the vaccines can genetically modify humans.

Since formal charges have yet to be filed, there is no criminal complaint.

During a court hearing Monday, officials said probable cause was found for recklessly endangering safety and federal criminal damage to property, but all of that depends on if the vials were actually destroyed as intended, or if they were damaged.

If they weren’t destroyed, court officials said there is no crime of attempt to recklessly endanger safety known to law, however, they said it is possible to have an attempted criminal attempt to damage property charge, which would be a misdemeanor in Wisconsin, not a felony.

Those charges won’t be known until Moderna finishes testing the vials. Court officials didn’t have a timeline as to when testing would be completed.

Brandenburg was released on a $10,000 signature bond Monday for attempt of criminal damage to property, and is not allowed to have contact with Advocate Aurora, or any of the employees. He also must turn over his firearms to the Ozuakee County Sheriff’s Office, and can’t work or be employed by any health care facility, or give injections.

A future court date is currently scheduled for January 19.

Advocate Aurora Health Care Chief Medical Group Officer Jeff Bahr said Brandenburg admitted to deliberately removing the vials from refrigeration on Dec. 24 into Dec. 25, returned them, then left them out again on the night of Dec. 25 into Dec. 26.

A pharmacy technician discovered the vials outside the refrigerator on Dec. 26.

Bahr said Brandenburg initially said he had removed the vials to access other items in the refrigerator and had inadvertently failed to put them back.

Brandenburg is no longer an employee of Aurora Medical Center after he was fired when admitting to intentionally damaging the vaccines.

The FBI and U.S. Food and Drug Administration are also investigating the incident.

You can listen to the full probable cause hearing above.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.