Dr Haskan Gokal was charged with theft by a public servant for snatching a vial of the Covid-19 vaccine from a county vaccination site in Huble, Texas.
He allegedly lifted the shot on 29 December. According to Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg, Dr Gokal later admitted he took the vaccine to another employee, who then reported him to supervisors.
Dr Gokal is facing up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine.
The county’s health department investigated the incident and subsequently fired Dr Gokal.
Ms Ogg said the doctor “disregarded county protocols in place to ensure vaccine is not wasted but administered to populations and front-line workers on a waiting list.”
Dr Gokal’s lawyer, Paul Doyle, told CNN the doctor stole the vaccine because it would have gone to waste otherwise. He said his client was a “dedicated public servant who ensured that Covid-19 vaccine dosages that would have otherwise expired went into the arms of people who met the criteria for receiving it.”
“Harris County would have preferred Dr Gokal let the vaccines go to waste and are attempting to disparage this man’s reputation in the process to support this police,” Mr Doyle said.
The concern that coronavirus vaccine is going to waste is not unfounded; hospitals and health care professionals across the country have reported instances of the vaccine expiring due to logistical hurdles preventing its use.
Healthcare professionals cited a lack of federal leadership and a lack of supplies as primary factors slowing the vaccine rollout.
A member of Joe Biden‘s coronavirus team said earlier in the week that the nascent administration would have to start their coronavirus distribution plan practically from scratch.
“What we’re inheriting is so much worse than we could have imagined,” Jeff Zients,’ the White House’s new coronavirus response coordinator said in a press call.
Government mismanagement is not the only reason why coronavirus vaccine vials have gone to waste; in at least one instance, the shots were intentionally destroyed.
An employee at a medical centre in Wisconsin intentionally destroyed nearly 500 doses of the vaccine by intentionally removing them from the freezer and leaving them out.
The Ozaukee County District Attorney prosecuting the worker said they destroyed the vaccines because they developed a belief that they were not safe.