A Wisconsin hospital pharmacist was sentenced to 36 months in prison Monday after he tampered with hundreds of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines by intentionally disrupting cold storage requirements, according to the Department of Justice.
Steven R. Brandenburg, 46 of Grafton Wis., removed vaccine vials from a hospital refrigeration unit during two overnight shifts in late December because he was skeptical of vaccines, and particularly Moderna’s vaccine, per a release posted Tuesday. After the vaccines were removed from cold temperatures overnight, he returned the vials to the refrigerator for the next day’s use.
“Before the full extent of Brandenburg’s conduct was discovered, 57 people received doses of the vaccine from these vials,” the release states.
Brandenburg, who allegedly told his co-workers about his vaccine skepticism for the past two years, will also be on supervised release for three years following his prison sentence. He has been ordered to pay approximately $83,800 in restitution to the hospital as well.
He pleaded guilty in February 2021 to two counts of “attempting to tamper with consumer products with reckless disregard for the risk that another person would be placed in danger of death or bodily injury.”
“The purposeful attempt to spoil vaccine doses during a national public health emergency is a serious crime,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian Boynton of the Department of Justice’s Civil Division said in a statement. “The Department of Justice will continue working with its law enforcement partners to safeguard these life-saving vaccines.”
“The FDA has ensured that the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine meets the agency’s rigorous standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality. Those who knowingly tamper with this vaccine place American patients’ health at risk,” FDA Assistant Commissioner for Criminal Investigations Catherine A. Hermsen said in a statement. “Today’s announcement should serve as a reminder that this kind of illicit tampering activity will not be tolerated.”