A-Hole Pharmacist Arrested After Deliberately Spoiling COVID-19 Vaccine Doses On Christmas
Steven Brandenburg was a pharmacist at Aurora Medical Center in Grafton, Wisconsin. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, Brandenburg removed 57 vials of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine from a refrigerator like a medical Grinch and left them out overnight. This wasn't an accident. According to Grafton police, Brandenburg knew his actions would make the vaccines as useless as Jared Kushner.
Even worse, Brandenburg wanted people to received the spoiled vaccines and believe they were safe from COVID-19 when they were not. Fortunately, a pharmacy technician found the vials outside the refrigerator on Christmas morning and notified his supervisors. There were about 10 doses of vaccine in each vial, so more than 500 doses were discarded.
Apparently, Brandenburg had placed tampered vaccines back into the refrigerator, and the Aurora Medical Center confirmed on Thursday that 57 people had received less effective or ineffective vaccines.
Brandenburg was arrested Thursday and will likely face felony charges of recklessly endangering safety, adulterating a prescription drug, and criminal damage to property. Aurora Medical Center obviously fired Brandenburg, but the question remains as to why a medical professional would do something so abhorrent.
During a press conference Thursday, Jeff Bahr, president of Aurora Health Care Medical Group, described Brandenburg as a "bad actor," but not like Sylvester Stallone. He meant that Brandenburg acted with willful malice, but Bahr wouldn't speculate on motive. This is how we know Brandenburg is white. If he were a brown Muslim, this would be a plot line from “24" where the terrorists are trying to undermine the rollout of a vaccine during a pandemic.
From NBC News:
"We continue to believe that vaccination is our way out of the pandemic. We are more than disappointed," the hospital said in a statement, adding that [Brandenburg] has been terminated. "This was a violation of our core values."
The vials containing the Moderna vaccine must be stored between 36 to 46 degrees Fahrenheit. The vaccine has just a 12-hour window of effectiveness once thawed. The hospital has notified everyone who received an ineffective vaccination and insists those individuals are not at risk from the useless vaccine. However, they were under the mistaken impression that they were successfully vaccinated.
This is not great news as we enter another year under the shadow of COVID-19. Americans are becoming less resistant to taking the vaccine. A recent poll showed that 71 percent of Americans said they'd get vaccinated, an increase from 63 percent in an August poll. But 71 percent is still too low for effective herd immunity. Dr. Anthony Fauci has suggested we might need as much as 90 percent immunity to stop the virus, which is what you'd need against a measles outbreak.
Too many Americans have resolved to ignore the coronavirus in 2021. This makes the vaccine our best hope of avoiding catastrophe.
New Year’s Eve pandemic celebration in Tampa, Florida https://t.co/uhaNLMprPI— Daniel Uhlfelder (@Daniel Uhlfelder)1609473634.0
Fear of vaccines is real, and this was always a potential obstacle to a successful rollout. It's especially concerning for communities of color. Although the virus has disproportionately impacted minorities, a recent poll showed that just 14 percent of Black Americans and 34 percent of Latino Americans say they believe a COVID-19 vaccine is safe. (It might help if the Biden-Harris administration reinforces how little Donald Trump, despite his boasts, actually had to do with producing the vaccine.)
Grafton is predominately white, but it's less than half an hour away from Milwaukee, which has a significant Black population. There's no evidence of a racial motive, but for the sake of calming fears, it would behoove the authorities to provide some explanation soon or at least confirm that Brandenburg is a random kook who just wanted to hurt people.
Negligence is unavoidable, especially given the scope of this effort, but deliberate acts of malice will weaken trust in the vaccine. That endangers us all.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."