Covid-19 roundup: Pharmacist who tampered with Moderna vaccines sentenced to 3 years in jail; FDA says J&J shelf life may be extended
A Wisconsin hospital pharmacist who told a judge he was skeptical of the Covid-19 vaccines, especially Moderna’s, will spend three years in prison after he admitted to attempting to destroy hundreds of doses that were later administered to patients.
Steven Brandenburg, 46, removed a box of Moderna vials from a refrigeration unit at the hospital he worked at during two overnight shifts in December 2020. He left the vaccines out for several hours a night, then returned them to the refrigerator to be used at the clinic the next day, the US Department of Justice said, and the vaccines were administered to 57 people before hospital employees learned about his conduct.
Brandenburg pleaded guilty to two counts of attempting to tamper with consumer products and was sentenced to 3 years of supervised release and ordered to pay $83,800 in restitution to the hospital on top of his upcoming prison stint.
“The FDA has ensured that the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine meets the agency’s rigorous standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality,” FDA investigator Catherine Hermsen. “Those who knowingly tamper with this vaccine place American patients’ health at risk. Today’s announcement should serve as a reminder that this kind of illicit tampering activity will not be tolerated.”
An “admitted conspiracy theorist,” Brandenburg believed the vaccine could harm people and change their DNA, police in Grafton, WI told The New York Times. The box he removed contained 570 vials of the vaccine, though it appears that the vaccines he tampered with remained effective, US Attorney Richard Frohling said in a statement.
FDA says J&J shelf life may be extended
If you have some soon-to-expire J&J vaccines, President Joe Biden’s administration wants you to hang on to them.
Janet Woodcock, the acting commissioner of the FDA, told state officials during a White House call Tuesday that they could store the doses until new data is released that shows whether the vaccines are still safe to use, Kaiser Health News reported. Until now, health officials have warned against using expired doses, but FDA officials are optimistic that the expiration dates could be extended.
There have been 21.4 million doses of that vaccine delivered to the states, but just about half have been administered, according to the CDC. Louisiana health officer Joseph Kanter has said that in Louisiana alone, there are 14,000 J&J doses that set to expire in June. In Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine said 200,000 J&J doses will expire on June 23 and the state has no legal way to send them elsewhere.
The single-dose jab can last for three months if refrigerated, and two years if frozen. Through President Donald Trump’s Operation Warp Speed, J&J was given a $1 billion contract to deliver 100 million doses of the shot.
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