Friday, 22 January 2021

Texas doctor, 48, is fired and charged after he took a 'damaged' vial of Moderna vaccine and gave it to nine friends and family including his wife so it didn't 'go to waste'

 A Texas doctor has been fired and criminally charged after he was accused of stealing a vial of the COVID-19 vaccine to give shots to friends and relatives.

Authorities allege that Dr. Hasan Gokal, who worked for Harris County Public Health, stole a vial containing nine doses of the Moderna vaccine while working at a vaccination site at Lyndsay Lyons Park, in Humble, on December 29.

The theft was reportedly discovered after Gokal bragged about it to a co-worker the following week, who then reported him to supervisors.

Prosecutors later determined that Gokal, 48, had used the vial to give the vaccine to nine different people, including his wife.

‘He abused his position to place his friends and family in line in front of people who had gone through the lawful process to be there,’ said Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg. 

‘What he did was illegal and he'll be held accountable under the law.’

Authorities allege that Dr. Hasan Gokal, who worked for Harris County Public Health, stole a vial containing nine doses of the Moderna vaccine

Authorities allege that Dr. Hasan Gokal, who worked for Harris County Public Health, stole a vial containing nine doses of the Moderna vaccine

The theft reportedly took place while he working at a vaccination site at Lyndsay Lyons Park (above), in Humble, on December 29

The theft reportedly took place while he working at a vaccination site at Lyndsay Lyons Park (above), in Humble, on December 29

Ogg said Gokal ignored protocols intended to ensure that the vaccine is given to front-line workers and people at higher risk for COVID-19 complications instead of being wasted, adding that mishandling the vaccine can lead to the county’s government funding being cut.

Gokal’s lawyer, Paul Doyle, said in a written statement that his client is a ‘dedicated public servant’ who is looking forward to his day in court.

He added that his client did nothing wrong, insisting the vial was already damaged but Gokal didn’t want it to go to waste.

‘[Gokal] ensured that COVID-19 vaccine dosages that would have otherwise expired went into the arms of people who met the criteria for receiving it,’ Doyle said.

‘Harris County would have preferred Dr. Gokal let the vaccines go to waste and are attempting to disparage this man’s reputation in the process to support this policy.’

Gokal was fired after an internal investigation by the health department.

He's been charged with a misdemeanor count of theft by a public servant, and faces up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine if convicted. 


Prosecutors later determined that Gokal, 48, had used the vial to give the vaccine to nine different people, one of whom was his wife

Prosecutors later determined that Gokal, 48, had used the vial to give the vaccine to nine different people, one of whom was his wife

Gokal had been one of the faces of Harris County Public Health during the pandemic, having regularly featured in videos and on townhall panels.

Records indicate he has been practising medicine for 21 years and is in good standing with the Texas Medical Board, with no disciplinary history.

Woods Nash, an assistant professor of bioethics and medical humanities at the University of Houston College of Medicine, told ABC13: ‘If the accusation against Dr. Gokal is true, he has committed a significant breach of the public's trust in the medical profession.

‘We trust doctors and other health care professionals to put the interest of their patients, and the public, ahead of their own goals and desires.

‘That expectation of altruism is not altered by the pandemic. If anything, the pandemic only increases the urgency of setting aside self-interests that conflict with the public good,’ he continued.

Gokal has not been arrested and a court hearing has not been set. His medical license is still active.

The vaccine rollout in the Houston region and other parts of Texas have been slower than expected, according to KHOU11.

Only 10 percent of Texans eligible for the first dose have received them. In the Houston region, only Galveston and Fort Bend counties vaccinated higher than that average, while Harris County was at 10 percent. 

Gokal had been one of the faces of Harris County Public Health during the pandemic, having regularly featured in videos and on townhall panels

Gokal had been one of the faces of Harris County Public Health during the pandemic, having regularly featured in videos and on townhall panels

Steven Brandenburg, 46, was arrested on December 31 and charged on Tuesday with trying to ruin more than 500 doses of the Moderna COVID vaccine

Steven Brandenburg, 46, was arrested on December 31 and charged on Tuesday with trying to ruin more than 500 doses of the Moderna COVID vaccine 

In Wisconsin, a pharmacist was arrested in December after being accused of ruining 57 vials of the Moderna vaccine because he allegedly believed the vaccine would mutate recipients´ DNA.

Steven Bandenburg, 46, was charged this week with a misdemeanor of attempted felony criminal damage to property.

Prosecutors said Bradenburg is an admitted conspiracy theorist who believed the vaccine would mutate recipients' DNA. Medical experts say there is no truth to the claims that the COVID-19 vaccines genetically modify humans.

Brandenburg told a detective that he removed the vials from the refrigerator at the medical center for three hours of December 24 then replaced them.

Then the next day on Christmas he took the vials out of the refrigerator again and left them out for nine hours, believing that it would render the doses ineffective if it wasn't refrigerated for 12 hours. But he said a pharmacy technician found the vials and put them back in the refrigerator.

The Moderna vaccine is supposed to be stored between 36 and 46 degrees Fahrenheit.

If convicted, Brandenburg could face a $10,000 fine and up to nine months in prison. He is due back in court March 18.

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