A Wisconsin pharmacist will plead guilty after trying to spoil hundreds of doses of the Moderna vaccine in an attempt to render them unusable, the US Department of Justice has said.
Steven Brandenburg, 46, who worked at Aurora Medical Center in Grafton, Wisconsin, apparently repeatedly removed a box of jabs from the refrigerator in which they were stored on Christmas Eve and Christmas Eve.
He then made sure they were put back in the fridge, ready for the next day.
He now faces charges of attempted falsification of consumer products and reckless disregard of the risk of another person being put in danger of death or bodily harm.
According to the plea deal, Brandenburg believed in various anti-vaxxer conspiracy theories and was skeptical of the effectiveness of vaccines – especially the one made by Moderna.
Before Brandenburg’s actions were discovered, 57 people had received doses from the vials he had tampered with, and an investigation into whether those people were injured is underway.
In a statement, US Attorney Matthew Krueger said: “Distribute the COVID-19[female[feminine the vaccine is essential to overcome this pandemic, which continues to end lives and disrupt our economy.
“As these accusations show, the Justice Department will prosecute anyone, and in particular any healthcare professional, who tampers with the vaccine.”
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Assistant Commissioner of Criminal Investigations Catherine Hermsen added, “The FDA has ensured that the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine meets the agency’s stringent standards for quality, safety and effectiveness.
“Those who knowingly tamper with this vaccine are putting the health of American patients at risk. Today’s announcement should serve as a reminder that this kind of illicit adulteration activity will not be tolerated.”
Moderna’s vaccine, which was also approved for use in the UK, must be stored and shipped frozen, but does not need the same ultra-cold temperatures as the Pfizer jab and can be stored in a standard refrigerator for up to 30 days.
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were notably vaccinated using Moderna’s jab, which was part of the previous administration’s Operation Warp Speed - a program to speed up vaccine development in the USA.