Pharmacist Sentenced to 3 Years for Trying to Spoil 500 Doses of COVID Vaccine, Feels 'Great Shame'
Steven Brandenburg was also ordered to pay $83,800 in restitution
A Wisconsin man will serve three years in federal prison for tampering with COVID-19 vaccine doses at the hospital where he worked.
Steven Brandenburg, 46, was sentenced Tuesday after pleading guilty back in February to two felony counts of attempting to tamper with a consumer product.
He had faced up to 20 years in prison, according to a statement from the Department of Justice.
Brandenburg was arrested on Dec. 31, 2020, after losing his job at Aurora Medical Center in Grafton. He was fired after leaving 57 vials of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine out over two nights.
All of the available COVID-19 vaccines require refrigeration.
Brandenburg believed the inoculations were unsafe, according to a probable cause statement. Brandenburg told investigators told he thought the vaccine was capable of altering recipients' DNA.
There is no scientific basis for such a belief, and multiple large-scale studies have shown that vaccines are safe.
He also told detectives he purposely left the doses out, hoping to taint them. He returned the vials to the hospital's refrigerators in the mornings.
"The purposeful attempt to spoil vaccine doses during a national public health emergency is a serious crime," Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton of the Justice Department's Civil Division said in the statement.
"The Department of Justice will continue working with its law enforcement partners to safeguard these life-saving vaccines," Boynton continued.
In addition to his term of imprisonment, U.S. District Judge Brett Ludwig ordered Brandenburg to serve three years of supervised release and to pay approximately $83,800 in restitution to the hospital.
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At the sentencing hearing, Brandenburg apologized for his actions.
"I did not have the right to make this decision," he said, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "I'm tormented by it daily."
The Associated Press reports Brandenburg said he felt "great shame" for his actions.
Multiple large-scale studies have found that vaccines are safe. There is no scientific link between vaccines and autism, according to the Centers for Disease Control.