A former Wisconsin pharmacist who tried to sabotage hundreds of doses of coronavirus vaccine in December will be going to prison.
Steven R. Brandenburg, 46, of Grafton, Wisconsin, had 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.
At the time, he worked at Aurora Medical Center in Grafton. Although most of the 500 doses tampered with were destroyed, 57 people, including many of Brandenburg’s former co-workers were injected with the tampered vaccine before anyone knew what Brandenburg had done, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
Brandenburg explained his actions by saying that he stated he was skeptical of all vaccines and especially Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine.
Brandenburg said that after leaving the vaccine outside of refrigeration at night, he would then put it back so it could be used.
“The purposeful attempt to spoil vaccine doses during a national public health emergency is a serious crime,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “The Department of Justice will continue working with its law enforcement partners to safeguard these life-saving vaccines.”
U.S. District Judge Brett Ludwig issued what he termed a lighter sentence because no one was harmed, Brandenburg had never committed a crime before, and Brandenburg admitted what he had done and expressed remorse.
“This was a serious, serious offense,” Ludwig said, according to the Journal-Sentinel. “He threatened to impose defeat through the jaws of victory.”
Michelle Blakely, the president of the hospital where Brandenburg had worked, said the hospital remains traumatized by the incident.
“The team is still very troubled,” Blakely said. “This has been absolutely devastating for the organization.”
Brandenburg said in a statement to the court that he felt “great shame.”
“I did not have the right to make this decision for them,” he said. “I’m tormented by it daily.”
His attorney, Jason Baltz, said at the time of the incident Brandenburg was suffering his own trauma from dealing with the pandemic, as well as a divorce.
Brandenburg’s anti-vaccine opinion was founded on an incident in which one of his daughters was diagnosed with eczema after receiving a shot when she was younger, Baltz said.
After his three-year prison stint, Brandenburg will then serve three years of supervised release and has to pay about $83,800 to the hospital.
However, he will have to find a new line of work. The Wisconsin Pharmacy Examining Board later suspended Brandenburg’s license, according to The Hill.
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