Anti-Vaxxer Pharmacist Pleads Guilty To Destroying Hundreds Of Vaccine Doses
An anti-vaxxer pharmacist in Wisconsin has pleaded guilty to destroying hundreds of COVID vaccines.
Steven Brandenburg is facing up to 10 years in prison after admitting to two counts of attempting to tamper with consumer products with reckless disregard for the risk that another person will be placed in danger of death or bodily injury.
The 46-year-old, who has been a qualified pharmacist since 1997, believes in various ‘conspiracy theories’ and notions of ‘alternative history’, and has been known to communicate these beliefs to colleagues at the Aurora Medical Center over the past two years.
On two shifts between December 24–25, 2020, Brandenburg removed the same box of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine doses from the refrigerator, out of the conditions they specifically need to be stored in, for periods of multiple hours, ‘intending to render that same vaccine inert or ineffective’.
One of his main responsibilities as a pharmacist was to make sure drugs are stored correctly, yet he carried out his plot ‘recklessly disregarding his knowledge of the applicable storage specifications and the associated risks’.
In a news release, Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian Boynton of the Department of Justice’s Civil Division said: ‘Tampering with vaccine doses in the midst of a global health crisis calls for a strong response, as reflected by the serious charges the United States has brought today.’
US Attorney Matthew D. Krueger said: ‘Distributing the COVID-19 vaccine is critical to overcoming this pandemic, which continues to end lives and upend our economy. As these charges show, the Justice Department will pursue anyone – and especially any medical professional – who tampers with the vaccine.’
According to the plea agreement, Brandenburg is sceptical both of vaccines in general but specifically the Moderna dose. On December 26, 57 people received doses of the vaccines Brandenburg had left out. An investigation into whether they were otherwise inert or harmful is ongoing.
FBI Milwaukee Special Agent in Charge Robert Hughes said: ‘Pharmacists rank among some of the most trusted professionals. This individual used his special access to tamper with vials of the much needed COVID-19 vaccine.’
He continued: ‘The FBI takes allegations of consumer product tampering very seriously and will use all available resources to bring those to justice who intentionally put the public’s health at risk.’
FDA Assistant Commissioner for Criminal Investigations Catherine A. Hermsen added: ‘Those who knowingly tamper with this vaccine place American patients’ health at risk. Today’s announcement should serve as a reminder that this kind of illicit tampering activity will not be tolerated.’
Currently, the US has seen more than 25.5 million confirmed cases of coronavirus, with more than 425,000 deaths.
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Department of Justice
US District Court Eastern District of Wisconsin