The journalists at BuzzFeed News are proud to bring you trustworthy and relevant reporting about the coronavirus. To help keep this news free, become a member and sign up for our newsletter, Incoming.
A now-fired pharmacist of a suburban Milwaukee hospital was arrested Thursday and accused of intentionally removing 57 vials of the COVID-19 vaccine from a pharmacy refrigerator, resulting in the hospital throwing out more than 550 doses.
Police in Grafton, Wisconsin, issued a statement Thursday saying the employee of Advocate Aurora Health Hospital is accused of tampering with and causing the destruction of the vials. The individual was fired from the medical center this week.
According to police, the former pharmacist admitted in a written statement to intentionally removing the vaccine.
“Grafton detectives indicate that the individual knew the spoiled vaccinations would be useless and that people who received the vaccinations would think they had been vaccinated against the virus when in fact they were not," police said.
Authorities said they first believed that the doses were left out of the refrigerator accidentally, but after receiving more information and doing a “deeper dive into the incident,” they discovered that the vials were intentionally removed.
“The investigation revealed that a former Pharmacist — a resident of Grafton, removed the vials from the refrigerated storage knowing that they would not be usable.”
Advocate Aurora Health Care Chief Medical Group Officer Jeff Bahr said the destroyed vials were the Moderna vaccine.
The Moderna vaccine shipped at freezer temperatures of -4 degrees Fahrenheit and the vials can be stored at refrigerator temperatures for up to 30 days, and at room temperatures for half a day.
"We continue to believe that vaccination is our way out of the pandemic. We are more than disappointed," the hospital said in a statement. "This was a violation of our core values."
The value of the wasted medicine is estimated to be between $8,000 and $11,000.
The former employee, who has not been publicly identified, is currently being held in jail in Ozaukee County.