Texas doctor defends himself after being fired for giving away expiring COVID vaccine doses

Texas doctor defends himself after being fired for giving away expiring COVID vaccine doses
U.S. Army Col. Sean Dooley receives a COVID-19 vaccination at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland on, December 14, 2020, U.S. Secretary of Defense
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A fired Texas doctor now facing charges for stealing coronavirus vaccines is speaking out and defending his decision not to allow doses of the vaccine to expire.

During an interview on CBS News, Hasan Gokal, who was previously employed as a doctor for the Harris County Public Health Department and served as the medical director overseeing the county's COVID vaccine distribution, explained why he made the decision. Gokal noted that the COVID vaccine doses would have, subsequently, led to supply going to waste if he had not taken them.

This is a 5-million person county and we had the first 3,000 thousand doses. There was no room for throwing any of it out. Ever," Gokal said. "When you have something so precious, life-saving, it would hurt you to throw it away."

"At that point, I start going through my phone list, thinking of who might" qualify for the vaccine, Gokal told CBS News. He also noted that guidance provided by the Texas Department of State Health Services suggested that they "always try to find eligible people in that tier when there are leftovers vaccine doses at the end of a shift."

According to Gokal, the public health agency's message was quite clear: "We don't want any doses wasted. Period," Gokal said. At the time, Gokal managed to locate a total of nine people, all of whom were older in age or had some form of pre-existing conditions that placed them in the high-risk category. Just before the vaccines were set to expire, Gokal also administered one of the vaccines to his wife.

Despite Gokal's arguments, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg insists he did not follow protocol and broke the rule of law. "He abused his position to place his friends and family in line in front of people who had gone through the lawful process to be there," Ogg said in a statement. "What he did was illegal and he'll be held accountable under the law."

Although the charges against Gokal were dropped and the case was dismissed by a federal judge, Ogg still plans to escalate the case to a grand jury.

As of Saturday, Feb. 27, the United States has reported 29.1 million coronavirus cases since the beginning of the pandemic. A total of 523,325 victims have died of complications of coronavirus.

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