The hospital employee was arrested on Thursday on “recommended charges” of first degree of recklessly endangering safety, adulterating a prescription drug, and criminal damage to property – all felonies. He is currently being held in the Ozaukee County jail, but his name has not yet been released to the public.
Aurora Health, which runs the hospital where the incident occurred, revealed earlier in the day that the pharmacist in question had been fired. An initial investigation suggested he had “inadvertently” left the vials – each containing 10 doses of the vaccine – out of the refrigerators needed to maintain their integrity overnight. The vials spoiled and had to be “discarded.”
The pharmacist subsequently admitted in writing that he did so deliberately, Aurora Health said, prompting the company to fire him and alert the authorities, including the FBI. His motives have not been revealed.
Both vaccines currently approved for use against the coronavirus in the US need to be kept in cold storage before being administered. The Moderna jabs arrive frozen at between -25°C and -15°C (-13°F and 5°F) and must be stored in refrigerators between 2°C and 8°C (36°F and 46°F), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Moderna vaccine was approved for emergency use on December 18 – a week after the Pfizer jab also received emergency authorization from the US health authorities. Both vaccines were developed and approved in under a year. The process normally takes much longer, but was expedited by the Trump administration’s program, dubbed ‘Operation Warp Speed’.
As demand for the vaccines outstrips supply in some parts of the US, politicized claims made about their safety during and after the November election campaign have created an additional problem for the health authorities.
Another wrinkle in their distribution has been created by ideological proposals to make them “equitable” and to prioritize groups “disproportionately impacted” by the pandemic, rather than frontline healthcare workers and seniors in nursing homes, who are judged to be at highest risk from the virus.
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