PORT WASHINGTON, Wis. (CBS Chicago/CBS News) — The Wisconsin hospital employee accused of tampering with hundreds of COVID-19 vaccine doses told investigators that he believed the vaccine could harm people and change their DNA, authorities said Monday.
Grafton, Wisconsin police arrested former Advocate Aurora Health pharmacist Steven Brandenburg, 46, last week on suspicion of reckless endangerment, altering a prescription drugs, and criminal damage to property. He had already been fired from the hospital when he was arrested last week.
Brandenburg is accused of intentionally removing 57 vials of the Moderna vaccine from a pharmacy refrigerator at the Aurora Medical Center-Grafton and leaving them out overnight. The damaged doses were estimated to be worth up to $11,000, CBS 58 in Milwaukee reported.
The Ozaukee County, Wisconsin District Attorney’s office said it is looking into evidence so they can properly charge Brandenburg, prosecutors said.
The District Attorney also said Brandenburg is an admitted conspiracy theorist who told investigators he believed the vaccine was unsafe and could change people’s DNA, CBS 58 reported.
Officials also noted concerns about Brandenburg’s behavior, the station reported.
“When investigators spoke with Mr. Brandenburg, he expressed that he was under a lot stress because of marital problems,” said Ozaukee County District Attorney Adam Gerol. “The police were able to confiscate some of his weapons and hold them for safe keeping, mainly because of his behavior and concerns from his ex-wife.”
Brandenburg was released from jail around 3:30 p.m. Monday after posting bond, which was set at $10,000, CBS 58 reported. He is also to have no contact Advocate Aurora employees and must turn all of his firearms over to the local sheriff’s office, the station reported.
Aurora Medical Center-Grafton said last week was forced to throw out more than 500 doses of the vaccine as a result of the incident.
The hospital launched an investigation and first was led to believe inadvertent human error was to blame. But on Wednesday of last week, the worker admitted to doing it on purpose, Advocate Aurora Health said.
Moderna said the doses that were left unrefrigerated were rendered ineffective, but not harmful. No one got shots from the ruined vials.
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