A US pharmacist who allegedly destroyed hundreds of doses of the coronavirus vaccine last month was a “recognized conspiracy theorist” and believed in a baseless rumor about their safety, authorities said.
Steven Brandenburg removed 57 vials of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine, each containing about 10 doses, from refrigerators at Aurora Medical Center in Grafton, Wisconsin, in an attempt to destroy them because he believed – mistakenly – they were dangerous and could alter human DNA.
The Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines are based on mRNA technology that provides genetic information to the human body to help produce antibodies against the coronavirus. Experts say there is no evidence at all to suggest that they alter human DNA, and millions of people have been inoculated with the help of these vaccines.
They require very low temperatures for storage and can be damaged or otherwise destroyed, which Brandenburg has attempted to do on two occasions, the prosecution said in its first court appearance on Monday.
“His intention… was to render them inert because he formed this belief that they weren’t sure, that the RNA method of creating these drugs made them dangerous,” the Ozaukee district attorney said, Adam Gerol, at the hearing.
Brandenburg initially told hospital officials that the vaccines were not refrigerated by accident, but later admitted that they removed them on purpose.
The 46-year-old also admitted on one occasion to putting the unrefrigerated vaccines inside, which were then injected into 57 people, the hospital operator said.
People have been informed and there is no evidence that the inert vaccines hurt them, according to the hospital operator.
He was fired and the hospital notified authorities, including the FBI. He was arrested Thursday last week.
“Brandenburg, a recognized conspiracy theorist, told investigators he believed the Covid-19 vaccine was not safe for people and could harm them and change their DNA,” according to a probable cause statement from police , published by local media.
The prosecution said its charges could be scaled down if the vaccines could still be used.
He also told authorities he was also stressed over the ongoing divorce proceedings with his wife, who requested sole custody of their two children, according to local media.
“He told me that if I didn’t understand now that… the world is crumbling around us, I’m in serious denial,” she said in an affidavit, according to The New York Times.
“He continued to say that the government is planning cyber attacks and considering shutting down the power grid. ”
Brandenburg was released on bail and ordered to surrender his firearms.
Unfounded conspiracy theories about the pandemic, particularly vaccines, have spread across social media despite efforts by tech giants to counter them.
Authorities and experts have said such misinformation poses a serious threat to the fight against the virus by encouraging reluctance to vaccinate and even outright rejection.
© 2021 AFP