Pharmacist pleads guilty after attempting to destroy virus vaccines

Steven Brandenburg admitted to removing 57 vials of the Moderna vaccine from the storage at Advocate Aurora Health Hospital

A pharmacist has been formally charged after he tampered with hundreds of doses of the coronavirus vaccine.

Steven Brandenburg, 46, pled guilty to attempting to tamper with the COVID-19 vaccine in federal court on Tuesday. He told officials he was skeptical of the Moderna vaccine.

Brandenburg allegedly took boxes of the vaccine out of the refrigerator where they were being stored and purposely left them out on December 24 and 25.

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“Recklessly disregarding his knowledge of the applicable storage specifications and the associated risks, Brandenburg, on two successive shifts that began on the evenings of Dec. 24 and Dec. 25, 2020, removed the same box of Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine from the refrigerator in the pharmacy at the Grafton Facility, for periods of multiple hours, intending to render that same vaccine inert or ineffective,” per a plea document obtained by WISN News.

He admitted to removing 57 vials of Moderna’s vaccine from the Advocate Aurora Health Hospital’s storage and is facing up to 20 years in prison. Brandenburg’s pharmacy license was suspended, and the hospital fired him.

Photo: Steven Brandenburg mugshot

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“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,” said the acting Assistant Attorney General Brian Boynton of the Department of Justice’s Civil Division said in a statement, per ABC News.

Many continue to fall victim to COVID-19, so the vaccine could be the only hope to combat the virus.

As previously reported by theGrio, Wilber Portillo, an 18-year-old young man in Denver, died after contracting COVID-19 for what his family and friends say was a second time. 

Portillo’s cousin and his girlfriend assert that Portillo tested positive for the virus in early October and again in mid-November, just two days before he died. He reportedly went to the doctor on Nov. 18, where he was told that he had a “strong infection” in his lungs. That night, he went to sleep and never woke up. 

According to a local report, Portillo contracted COVID-19 the first week of October, and after he quarantined and recovered, believed he had immunity. His girlfriend, Andrea Ferrel, maintained that he still practiced social distancing. 

However, within a month, he was sick again. 

“Just because you’re young, you aren’t immune to it,” Ferrel said, “and even though we see more cases with older people and people with health conditions and even people without health conditions, it’s important that you stay home.”

Additional reporting by Biba Adams

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