Jan. 26 (UPI) -- A Wisconsin pharmacist pleaded guilty on Tuesday to destroying more than 500 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Steven Brandenburg, 46, faces up to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to two counts of attempting to tamper with consumer products with reckless disregard for the risk that another person will be placed in danger of death or bodily injury, the U.S. Department of Justice said.
"Tampering with vaccine doses in the midst of a global health crisis calls for a strong response, as reflected by the serious charges the United States has brought today," Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian Boynton said. "The Department of Justice will continue to work with its law enforcement partners to ensure the public receives safe and effective vaccines."
Brandenburg on Dec. 26 left out overnight 57 vials of Moderna's vaccine, each of which contains 10 doses of vaccine and must be stored between 36 and 46 degrees Fahrenheit.
His actions caused an estimated $8,000-$11,000 worth of damages and more than 50 people were administered vaccine doses that were rendered ineffective.
In his plea agreement, Brandenburg said he believes in various conspiracy theories and notions of "alternative history" including being highly skeptical of vaccines in general and specifically of the Moderna vaccine.
He had shared these beliefs with his co-workers for at least the two years leading up to tampering with the vaccines, the plea agreement states.