A Wisconsin pharmacist will spend three years behind bars after pleading guilty to sabotaging hundreds of Moderna Covid-19 shots.
The man confessed to trying to destroy the vaccines, claiming that they were not safe.
Steven Brandenburg was jailed for three years and ordered to pay $83,800 in compensation to his former employer after he “purposefully removed” a box of Moderna vaccine vials from a hospital refrigerator during two successive night shifts in late December 2020, the Justice Department said in a statement. It’s believed that he tampered with more than 500 doses of the drug.
Before his conduct was discovered, 57 people were administered doses from the spoiled vials, which need to be stored at a specific temperature to remain effective.
During his sentencing on Tuesday, Brandenburg told US District Judge Brett Ludwig that he was “desperately sorry and ashamed” for his actions.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton of the DOJ’s Civil Division said that Brandenburg’s efforts to destroy vaccine doses during a national public health emergency were a “serious crime” and that authorities would stay vigilant in order to protect “life-saving vaccines” from other acts of sabotage.
In February, Brandenburg pleaded guilty to two counts of attempting to tamper with consumer products. In his plea agreement, the defendant acknowledged that he was skeptical of the Moderna vaccine, and had shared his beliefs about the drug with co-workers. According to police, Brandenburg believed that the vaccine was unsafe and could change people’s DNA.
Court records from Brandenburg’s divorce detail how his estranged wife told law enforcement that he was an “admitted conspiracy theorist” who believes that “the government is planning cyberattacks and plans to shut down the power grid.”
More than 124 million doses of the Moderna vaccine have been administered in the United States, after government regulators approved its use in late December.
While intentional sabotage appears to be a rare occurrence, there have been several cases where vaccine doses have been improperly stored, causing headaches for health officials.
In January, a janitor is said to have accidentally spoiled 1,900 doses of the Moderna vaccine after unplugging a freezer at a Boston pharmacy.