Pharmacist who intentionally spoiled COVID-19 vaccine doses to plead guilty to federal charges

MILWAUKEE, Wis. — The fired Wisconsin hospital pharmacist who confessed to intentionally seeking to spoil more than 500 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine agreed Tuesday to plead guilty to two counts of attempting to tamper with a consumer product.

The federal charges against Steven Brandenburg, 46, of Grafton also assert he sabotaged the vaccine doses “with reckless disregard for the risk that another person will be placed in danger of death or bodily injury,” WISN reported.

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“Distributing the COVID-19 vaccine is critical to overcoming this pandemic, which continues to end lives and upend our economy,” U.S. Attorney Matthew Krueger said in a news release. “As these charges show, the Justice Department will pursue anyone – and especially any medical professional – who tampers with the vaccine.”

According to WITI, each charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Brandenburg confessed to police that he deliberately tried to ruin the vaccines because he was concerned the inoculations could alter people’s DNA. Specifically, he left 57 vials – each containing about 10 doses of the vaccine – at room temperature on the nights of Dec. 24 and 25 at Aurora Medical Center, when refrigeration is required to maintain the vaccine’s effectiveness.

According to Brandenburg’s plea agreement, he believed in various “conspiracy theories,” subscribed to notions of “alternative history” and was skeptical of vaccines in general and the Moderna vaccine specifically, WISN reported.

The federal charges come after Brandenburg pleaded not guilty in an Ozaukee County court last week to attempted criminal damage to property, WITI reported.

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