Wisconsin pharmacist Arrested for Allegedly Destroying COVID-19 Vaccine. What Now?

On December 31st, 2020, a Wisconsin pharmacist was arrested following the destruction of over fifty-seven vials of the Moderna vaccine. Steven Brandenburg, worker at the Advocate Aurora Health Care Center, is accused of deliberately tampering with approximately five-hundred doses of the latest COVID-19 vaccine. He had intentionally left the drug at room temperature when the Moderna vaccine should have been stored at around -20 degrees Celsius in a freezer, thereby preventing those doses from being used. 

    On January 4th, 2021, Brandenburg appeared from jail via Zoom for a hearing at the Ozaukee County Courthouse. According to NBC News, “Brandenburg was initially booked on suspicion of recklessly endangering safety, adulterating a prescription drug and criminal damage to property.” However, after the court hearing, it was revealed that he had not been asked to plead guilty or no contest to the three charges that he initially faced. PEOPLE states, “According to the Journal Sentinel, those charges could be amended, depending on the results of testing Moderna’s doing on the tainted vials. If the doses were not, in fact, ruined, most of those charges would be dismissed.” 

    After being released from the Ozaukee County Jail on a $10,000 bond, Brandenburg released a statement, saying that he had believed that the vaccine would cause the world to “crash down”, as it is allegedly “unsafe”.  He is an admitted conspiracy theorist, stating that the coronavirus vaccine has the ability to change the patients’ DNA, although according to PEOPLE, “There is no scientific basis for such a belief, and multiple large-scale studies have shown that vaccines are safe.”

    Peter Marks, M.D., Ph.D., the director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research says, “…the potential benefits of the Moderna vaccine clearly outweigh its known and potential risks…” 

    Furthermore, according to the Chicago Tribune, “Misinformation around the COVID-19 vaccines has surged online with false claims circulating on everything from the vaccines’ ingredients to its possible side effects. One of the earliest false claims suggested that the vaccines could alter DNA. The Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine as well as the Moderna vaccine rely on messenger RNA or mRNA, which is a fairly new technology used in vaccines that experts have been working on for years. MRNA vaccines help train the immune system to identify the spike protein on the surface of the coronavirus and create an immune response. Experts have said there is no truth to the claims that the vaccines can genetically modify humans.”

    Therefore, although there have been misleading pieces of information regarding the vaccines that have been and are still circulating around the Internet, healthcare workers, scientists, and other officials strongly urge everyone to get vaccinated as soon as possible. 

    It is known that many Americans have been wary of vaccines, particularly the COVID-19 vaccine, as it is the first ever mRNA drug. However, according to the Mayo Clinic Health System, “Many pharmaceutical companies invested significant resources into quickly developing a vaccine for COVID-19 because of the world-wide impact of the pandemic. The emergency situation warranted an emergency response but that does not mean that companies bypassed safety protocols or didn’t perform adequate testing…In addition to the safety review by the FDA, the Advisory Committee on Immunization has convened a panel of vaccine safety experts to independently evaluate the safety data from the clinical trial. The safety of COVID-19 vaccine will continue to be closely monitored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the FDA.” 

    Additionally, another major misconception is that the side effects of COVID-19 vaccines are extremely unpredictable and severe, and will result in permanent and irreversible damage to patients’ immune systems and overall health. However, the Mayo Clinic Health System states, “There are short-term mild or moderate vaccine reactions that resolve without complication or injury. The early phase studies of the Pfizer vaccine show that it is safe. About 15% of people developed short lived symptoms at the site of the injection. 50% developed systemic reactions primarily headache, chills, fatigue or muscle pain or fever lasting for a day or two. Keep in mind that these side effects are indicators that your immune system is responding to the vaccine and are common when receiving vaccines.”

    The Mayo Clinic Health System provides multiple scientifically-proven answers in regards to common questions concerning the COVID-19 vaccine, so it is essential to read through this article in order to discover the evidence-based truths behind all of the other the misconceptions.

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