Authorities arrested a suburban Milwaukee pharmacist Thursday suspected of deliberately ruining hundreds of doses of coronavirus vaccine by removing it from refrigeration for two nights.
The Grafton Police Department said the former Advocate Aurora Health pharmacist was arrested on suspicion of reckless endangerment, adulterating a prescription drug and criminal damage to property.
The department said in a news release that he was in jail. Police did not identify the pharmacist, saying he has not yet been formally charged.
Advocate Aurora Health Care Chief Medical Group Officer Jeff Bahr told reporters during a teleconference Thursday afternoon that the pharmacist deliberately removed 57 vials of the Moderna vaccine from refrigeration overnight on Dec. 24 into Dec. 25, returned them, then left them out again on the night of Dec. 25 into Saturday.
A pharmacy technician discovered the vials outside the refrigerator on Saturday morning. Workers used the vaccine to inoculate 57 people. Bahr said their doses were ineffective. The recipients shouldn't be in any danger, he said, but the system is monitoring their conditions.
“This was a situation involving a bad actor, as opposed to a bad process,” he said.
The Grafton facility hadn't received any Moderna vaccine before Dec. 24, which means the pharmacist wouldn't have had an opportunity to tamper with any other vials, he added.
“We continue to believe that vaccination is our way out of the pandemic. We are more than disappointed that this individual’s actions will result in a delay of more than 500 people receiving their vaccine,” the health care system said in a statement.
The number of COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin has been rising in recent days after dipping in early December. The state Department of Health Services reported 3,810 newly confirmed cases on Thursday, marking the third straight day of rising daily infections. The state has now seen 481,102 cases.
COVID-19 was a factor in 41 more deaths, pushing the state's overall death toll to 4,859. The survival rate remained unchanged at 99%.