Ozaukee County Sheriff via AP, File
- A Wisconsin pharmacist deliberately removed Moderna vaccine vials from a clinic refrigerator.
- Steven Brandenburg then put them back to be used the next day because he believed they were harmful.
- He was sentenced to three years in prison on Tuesday.
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The former Wisconsin pharmacist who deliberately sabotaged 500 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine was sentenced to 3 years in prison, the Justice Department said in a press release.
Steven Brandenburg, who was a pharmacist at Aurora Medical Center in Grafton, Wisconsin, was arrested on December 31 after an investigation found that he removed 57 vials of the vaccine from a clinic refrigerator during two overnight shifts that month.
The Moderna vaccine must be kept refrigerated to remain effective; once removed it must be used within a few hours.
Brandenburg then returned the vials to the refrigerator so they would be used the next day.
"The purposeful attempt to spoil vaccine doses during a national public health emergency is a serious crime," Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton of the Justice Department's Civil Division said. "The Department of Justice will continue working with its law enforcement partners to safeguard these life-saving vaccines."
Brandenberg said he sabotaged the vaccine because he didn't think the coronavirus was real and believed the vaccine was harmful.
In February, he pleaded guilty to two counts of attempting to tamper with consumer products with reckless disregard for the risk that another person would be placed in danger of death or bodily injury.
He will also have to pay approximately $83,800 in restitution to the hospital, the Justice Department said.
WTMJ's Tony Atkins reported Brandenburg apologized during his sentencing hearing.
"I did not have the right to make this decision," he said. "I feel terrible for what I've done. I am desperately sorry and ashamed."