Wisconsin pharmacist ruined 500 COVID-19 vaccine doses because he wrongly believed they could alter DNA: prosecutor

Wisconsin pharmacist ruined 500 COVID-19 vaccine doses because he wrongly believed they could alter DNA: prosecutor

At a time when health experts are hoping to see as many Americans as possible vaccinated for COVID-19, Wisconsin-based pharmacist Steven Brandenburg was arrested for ruining hundreds of doses of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine. And according to Associated Press reporter Todd Richmond, Brandenburg told police he did so because he believed the vaccine was unsafe.

"A detective wrote in a probable cause statement that Brandenburg, 46, is an admitted conspiracy theorist and that he told investigators he intentionally tried to ruin the vaccine because it could hurt people by changing their DNA," Richmond reports. "Misinformation around the COVID-19 vaccines has surged online with false claims circulating on everything from the vaccines' ingredients to its possible side effects."

The vials of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine that Brandenburg ruined, according to Richmond, contained enough doses to vaccinate more than 500 people. Ozaukee County District Attorney Adam Gerol, during an online hearing, said that Brandenburg "formed this belief they were unsafe."

Richmond notes that claims that COVID-19 vaccines from Moderna and others could alter DNA have been totally debunked.

"The Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine as well as the Moderna vaccine rely on messenger RNA or mRNA, which is a fairly new technology used in vaccines that experts have been working on for years," the AP reporter explains. "MRNA vaccines help train the immune system to identify the spike protein on the surface of the coronavirus and create an immune response. Experts have said there is no truth to the claims that the vaccines can genetically modify humans."

According to Jeff Bahr, chief medical officer for Aurora Health Care in Wisconsin, Brandenburg admitted to removing the vials from refrigeration and taking them outside — which rendered many doses of the COVID-19 vaccine unusable.

Richmond reports, "A pharmacy technician discovered the vials outside the refrigerator on December 26. Bahr said Brandenburg initially said he had removed the vials to access other items in the refrigerator and had inadvertently failed to put them back. The Moderna vaccine is viable for 12 hours outside refrigeration; so, workers used the vaccine to inoculate 57 people before discarding the rest. Police said the discarded doses were worth between $8000 and $11,000."

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