Authorities in the US state of Wisconsin have arrested a pharmacist on suspicion of intentionally spoiling about 500 doses of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine, local TV channel WBAY reported on Thursday.
On Thursday, non-profit hospital system Advocate Aurora Health reported that a worker had removed 57 vials of the Moderna vaccine from a refrigerator at a pharmacy in the city of Grafton, Wisconsin, spoiling about 570 doses of the vaccine, which were subsequently discarded.
“The former employee admitted to intentionally removing the vaccine knowing that if not properly stored the vaccine would be ineffective,” Wisconsin police said in a statement, according to the station. “Grafton detectives indicate that the individual knew the spoiled vaccinations would be useless and that people who received the vaccinations would think they had been vaccinated against the virus when in fact they were not.”
Dr. Jeff Bahr, president of the Aurora Health Care Medical Group, said that the worker had been fired, and added that some were administrated with the jab before it became clear that it had been spoiled.
Bahr also noted that the medical centre had contacted those who had been administrated the spoiled vaccine, noting that there has not yet been evidence of “any harm” to participants.
“The individual was suspended, and after multiple interviews over the course of the week, admitted yesterday to intentionally removing the vaccine from refrigeration,” Bahr said. “The 57 recipients of those vaccines have been notified. At this time, there’s no evidence that the vaccinations pose any harm to them, other than being potentially less effective or ineffective.”
The worker is currently being held at the Ozaukee County Jail awaiting indictment. Police reportedly recommend charging him with a 1st degree of recklessly endangering safety and adulterating a prescription drug, as well as a charge of criminal damage to property.
The street retail value of the discarded lot was estimated to be between $8,000 and $11,000.
The United States authorized two vaccines from biotechnology companies Pfizer and Moderna, to carry out a mass immunization against the coronavirus. Each is given in two doses, with an interval of several weeks between the jabs.
Both vaccines are based on the messenger RNA method and are stated to have efficacy levels on the order of 95 percent. Moderna's vaccine, unlike Pfizer's, does not require ultra-low temperatures for transport and storage.
As of Saturday, the United States has registered over 19.94 million coronavirus infection cases, and at least 345,316 deaths, according to data collated by the Johns Hopkins University. Over half a million cases have been registered in Wisconsin alone, with a death toll in the state of at least 5,195.