Pharmacist charged for allegedly sabotaging hundreds of COVID vaccines

WASHINGTON PORT, Wis. (WISN) — A pharmacist attempted to ruin more than 500 doses of the Moderna vaccine, telling investigators he believed the vaccine was unsafe and altered recipients’ DNA.

Steven Brandenburg, a Grafton, Wisconsin pharmacist, appeared in Ozaukee County Court Tuesday afternoon. He is charged with a misdemeanor of attempted felony criminal damage to property.

Prosecutors claim Brandenburg intentionally tried to spoil the COVID-19 vaccines, something he confessed to in an email to his Aurora employers.

Brandenburg wrote that he removed the box of Moderna vaccines from the temperature-controlled refrigerator twice. Once on Christmas Eve, then again on Christmas Day.

“I did so with the purpose of allowing the vaccine to be outside the temperature range so that it would not be effective,” Brandenburg wrote.

He added it was a, “…spontaneous act, and that he wasn’t thinking straight due to ongoing personal matters and lack of sleep.”

According to authorities, Brandenburg is “an admitted conspiracy theorist” and told investigators he believed the Moderna vaccine “was not safe for people and could harm them and change their DNA.”

Brandenburg was initially charged with felonies, facing a $10,000 fine and up to 9 months in prison.

Tuesday, District Attorney Adam Gerol, decided to change the charges to misdemeanor offenses.

“I think we were working off of an assumption that the vaccine at issue, in this case, had been damaged, the best evidence to this point is that the vaccine remains viable,” said Gerol.

Moderna says its vaccines can be left at room temperature for up to 24 hours and still be effective. Brandenburg left 57 vials, equal to about 570 doses, out for 12 hours.

Brandenburg’s former employers at the Aurora Medical Center administered the vaccine to 57 people, but the investigation into whether it’s still good is ongoing.

Gerol said in court, “it is being sent to Moderna for further testing if something were to come up then the charges might change.”

Aurora has since fired Brandenburg, with the Wisconsin Pharmacy Board unanimously voting to suspend his licensure, pending the outcome of his criminal case. His license was originally granted in 1997.

Brandenburg pleads not guilty and remains free on bail. He will be back in court this March.

Read the official order below:


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