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Wisconsin hospital worker fired, arrested after allegedly destroying COVID-19 vaccine

A Wisconsin hospital worker was fired and arrested after destroying 500 doses of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine by intentionally leaving them out of refrigeration overnight. Photo by Gary I Rothstein/UPI
A Wisconsin hospital worker was fired and arrested after destroying 500 doses of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine by intentionally leaving them out of refrigeration overnight. Photo by Gary I Rothstein/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 31 (UPI) -- A Wisconsin hospital employee was fired and arrested after an investigation revealed the worker allegedly destroyed more than 500 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The incident took place at the Aurora Medical Center in Grafton, Wis., north of Milwaukee, where police announced they arrested the former employee on suspicion of recklessly endangering safety, adulterating a prescription drug and criminal damage to property.

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"We continue to believe that vaccination is our way out of the pandemic. We are more than disappointed," the hospital said. "This was a violation of our core values."

A total of 57 vials of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine -- which is required to be stored between 36 and 46 degrees Fahrenheit -- were left out overnight on Saturday. Each vial contains about 10 doses of the vaccine causing an estimated $8,000 and $11,000 worth of damage.

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Police did not provide a potential motive but Jeff Bahr, president of Aurora Health Care Medical Group, called the pharmacist a "bad actor" and said he'd been fired.

The incident was initially considered an accident, with hundreds of doses being discarded, while some were quickly administered.

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However, on Wednesday, the health system announced the hospital worker "acknowledged that they intentionally removed the vaccine from refrigeration."

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On Thursday, Aurora Health said the investigation found that the former employee had also removed and returned the vaccine to refrigeration the previous night, leading hospital officials to believe that more than 50 doses that were administered would be rendered ineffective.

Bahr said people who received shots on Dec. 26 may not gain full protection, adding the individuals had been contacted.

He said the hospital was working with Moderna and the Food and Drug Administration to "figure out a strategy" to ensure those people are properly inoculated against the virus, adding there was "no evidence that the vaccinations pose any harm to them other than being less effective or ineffective."

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