A pharmacist who was arrested on charges that he intentionally sabotaged more than 500 doses of the Covid-19 vaccine at a Wisconsin hospital was “an admitted conspiracy theorist” who believed the vaccine could harm people and “change their DNA,” according to the police in Grafton, Wis., where the man was employed.
The police said Steven Brandenburg, 46, who worked the night shift at the Aurora Medical Center in Grafton had twice removed a box of vials of the Moderna vaccine from the refrigerator for periods of 12 hours, rendering them “useless.”
“Brandenburg admitted to doing this intentionally, knowing that it would diminish the effects of the vaccine,” the police said.
The attempt to destroy precious doses of the vaccine came over the holidays as the state worked to administer vaccines quickly to frontline health care workers. As of Saturday, the state had received 159,800 doses of vaccines and had administered 64,657, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although the Moderna product is sometimes described as a “genetic” vaccine, it does not alter a person’s genes in any way.
The vials, which contained 570 doses of vaccine and which prosecutors said were worth $8,000 to $12,000, were discovered sitting out on Dec. 26. Five days later, Mr. Brandenburg was arrested on felony charges of reckless endangerment and property damage, though prosecutors on Monday said the charges could be dropped to a single misdemeanor if the vials, which have yet to be tested, are still usable.
The prosecutor, Adam Gerol, said that Mr. Brandenburg was “pretty cooperative and admitted to everything he’d done.” He said that according to co-workers, Mr. Brandenburg had brought a gun to work on two prior occasions.
In an order signed Monday, a family court granted temporary sole custody of Mr. Brandenburg’s two daughters to his wife, Gretchen Brandenburg, finding that the children were in “imminent danger of physical or emotional harm.”
Ms. Brandenburg filed for divorce last June. At a hearing in July, her lawyer testified that his client feared Mr. Brandenburg’s temper.