MILWAUKEE (AP) — A former pharmacist in Wisconsin who purposefully ruined more than 500 doses of COVID-19 vaccine has been sentenced to three years in prison.
Steven Brandenburg, of Grafton, was sentenced Tuesday after pleading guilty in February to two felony counts of attempting to tamper with a consumer product.
Brandenburg had admitted to intentionally removing the doses manufactured by Moderna from a refrigerator for hours at Aurora Medical Center in Grafton, located just north of Milwaukee.
After leaving the vaccine doses to spoil, he stated that he then put them back in the refrigerator. At least 57 people received doses that Brandenburg purposely ruined before authorities realized what he was doing, according to U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Wisconsin.
“The purposeful attempt to spoil vaccine doses during a national public health emergency is a serious crime,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian Boynton of the Department of Justice’s Civil Division said in a news release. “The Department of Justice will continue working with its law enforcement partners to safeguard these life-saving vaccines.”
The convicted pharmacy employee was skeptical of vaccines in general and the Moderna vaccine specifically, he said in his plea agreement. He didn’t keep his views secret, court docs say – for the past two years let co-workers know how he felt about vaccines.
Brandenburg said in a statement before receiving his sentence that he felt “great shame” and accepted responsibility for his actions.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports he apologized to his co-workers, family and the community.
“The FDA has ensured that the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine meets the agency’s rigorous standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality. Those who knowingly tamper with this vaccine place American patients’ health at risk,” said FDA Assistant Commissioner for Criminal Investigations Catherine A. Hermsen. “Today’s announcement should serve as a reminder that this kind of illicit tampering activity will not be tolerated.”
Along with his three-year sentence, Brandenburg will be required to spend an additional three years on supervised release and pay $83,800 in restitution to the hospital.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.