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An ex-pharmacist appeared in Wisconsin court on Monday after he was arrested and accused of intentionally leaving COVID-19 Moderna vaccines out of cold-storage on Christmas Eve and Christmas evening, which the hospital said rendered them essentially useless.
Steven Brandenburg, 46, who was arrested last week, believed that the COVID-19 vaccines were capable of altering the DNA of patients who received them, and considered himself a conspiracy theorist, according to various court documents, reported the Associated Press.
Ozaukee County District Attorney Adam Gerol told the court Monday that the hospital has since walked back a statement saying the vaccines were discarded, and that the vaccines are actually still in the hospital’s possession, reported WPR. Gerol also said testing the vaccines would be necessary to determine whether the vaccines were actually spoiled, and that such findings could affect potential charges against Brandenburg.
“You possibly have a crime known as attempted criminal damage to property in Wisconsin,” said Gerol. “That would be a misdemeanor and that would seem to apply at some point in time in the future.”
Brandenburg has since been ordered released from jail on $10,000 signature bond, and has been forced to surrender his firearms.
According to an affidavit filed by his wife, Brandenburg believed the world was “crashing down,” and was hoarding food and guns in rental units to prepare, the AP reported. She also said he was making her feel unsafe, and that he believed the government was preparing a power-grid shutdown.
Gerol said Brandenburg was upset about his pending divorce, and that a hospital employee had twice accused him of bringing a gun to work.
He was fired from Advocate Aurora Health Care’s location in Grafton, Wisconsin, in late December following an investigation into how 57 vials of Moderna vaccine — enough for more than 500 people — were somehow left out of the pharmacy refrigerator.
Aurora Health Care initially explained the incident as an inadvertent mistake, but then said that over the course of the investigation, they came to believe the effort was actually intentional. After interviewing Brandenburg about the vaccines several times, the hospital said, the pharmacist admitted that he deliberately left the Moderna vials out.
“On Saturday, December 26, in the early morning, one of our pharmacy technicians discovered what turned out to be 57 vials of Moderna vaccine, enough for about 570 doses outside the refrigerator in which those vials were stored,” Aurora Health Care Medical Group President Dr. Jeff Bahr explained in a Zoom conference call last week.
“The vaccine vials were returned to the refrigerator and the technician reported the incident to superiors. The pharmacist responsible for removing the vials maintained the position that this was an inadvertent error that occurred while the individual was accessing other items from the same refrigerator,” Bahr said.
“Over the subsequent days as we continued our internal review, we became increasingly suspicious of the behavior of the individual in question,” Bahr added. “The individual was suspended and, after multiple interviews over the course of the week, admitted yesterday to intentionally removing the vaccine from refrigeration. Additionally, the individual admitted to removing and then returning the vaccine to the refrigerator overnight, on the evening of December 24, into December 25. No vaccinations were administered on December 24 or December 25, but this means that the 57 vaccinations that were administered on December 26 were rendered less effective or ineffective.”
Officials estimated that the vaccines, which were designated for employees of the hospital, were worth between $8,000 and $11,000. According to The New York Times, Brandenburg’s wife has been given sole custody of their children on a temporary basis because a family court determined they were in “imminent danger of physical or emotional harm.”