A Wisconsin man was sentenced to three years in prison for tampering with COVID-19 vaccine doses at the hospital where he worked.
Steven Brandenburg, 46, of Grafton, pleaded guilty on Feb. 9, to two counts of attempting to tamper with consumer products with reckless disregard for the risk that another person would be placed in danger of death or bodily injury. According to court documents, Brandenburg purposefully removed a box of COVID-19 vaccine vials manufactured by Moderna — which must be stored at specific cold temperatures to remain viable — from a hospital refrigeration unit during two successive overnight shifts in late December 2020. According to his plea agreement, Brandenburg stated that he was skeptical of vaccines in general, and the Moderna vaccine specifically, and had communicated his beliefs about vaccines to his co-workers.
Brandenburg acknowledged that after leaving the vaccines out for several hours each night, he returned the vaccines to the refrigerator to be used in the hospital’s vaccine clinic the following day. Before the full extent of Brandenburg’s conduct was discovered, 57 people received doses of the vaccine from these vials.
“The purposeful attempt to spoil vaccine doses during a national public health emergency is a serious crime,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian Boynton of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “The Department of Justice will continue working with its law enforcement partners to safeguard these life-saving vaccines.”
“The FDA has ensured that the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine meets the agency’s rigorous standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality,” said Assistant Commissioner for Criminal Investigations Catherine Hermsen of the Food and Drug Administration. “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.”
In addition to the 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.