Former Aurora pharmacist arrested for alleged vaccine tampering

Last updated on January 4th, 2021 at 05:40 pm

A former pharmacist who allegedly removed COVID-19 vaccine vials from a refrigerator at Aurora Medical Center-Grafton to render them ineffective was arrested Thursday.

The pharmacist, a male Grafton resident, intentionally left the vaccine out of refrigerated storage over the weekend, knowing those who were given the vaccine would think they had been inoculated against the virus when they actually were not, according to a Grafton Police report.

Police are recommending felony charges of First Degree Recklessly Endangering Safety, Adulterating a Prescription Drug and Criminal Damage to Property. The value of the spoiled vaccine, which amounted to more than 500 doses, is estimated to be between $8,000 and $11,000. The suspect is being held in the Ozaukee County jail.

The suspect, who was fired this week by Advocate Aurora Health, admitted in a written statement to the health system that he intentionally removed the vaccine knowing that if not properly stored the vaccine would be ineffective, according to the police report. A motive for the alleged vaccine tampering has not been disclosed.

Fifty-seven people received vaccine that was later determined to be potentially ineffective, Jeff Bahr, president of Aurora Health Care Medical Group, said Thursday. Those individuals have been notified that the vaccine they received was potentially less effective or ineffective. Bahr said Moderna has confirmed there are no safety concerns associated with receiving the vaccine after it has been left at room temperature too long, aside from it being potentially ineffective.

Police have not disclosed the suspect’s name, pending his formal advisement of charges.

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Lauren Anderson covers health care, nonprofits and education for BizTimes. Lauren previously reported on education for the Waukesha Freeman. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she studied journalism. In her free time, Lauren enjoys hiking, kayaking, and seeing live music.

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