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Pharmacist sabotaged vaccines because he thought they were ‘unsafe,’ police say

first_imgGrafton Police Department By SASHA PEZENIK and IVAN PEREIRA, ABC News(GRAFTON, Wis.) — A Wisconsin pharmacist accused of deliberately sabotaging more than 500 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine allegedly told investigators he tampered with the vials because he believed they were unsafe, according to new details revealed Monday in court.The Grafton Police Department released a probable cause statement revealing more details about Stephen Brandenburg’s Dec. 31 arrest at his home.The 46-year-old pharmacist, whose license was granted in 1997, was “an admitted conspiracy theorist,” and told investigators he believed the Moderna vaccine “was not safe for people and could harm them and change their DNA,” Det. Sgt. Eric Sutherland said in the probable cause statement.Brandenburg gave “a full confession that he had done exactly this. His intent was to destroy the medication. He did the things that he was accused of,” Ozaukee County District Attorney Adam Gerol told a judge during the Zoom video conference hearing.There is no evidence to suggest that the COVID-19 vaccine alters people’s DNA. Some companies, such as Moderna and Pfizer, use mRNA technology that introduces a small part of the virus’ genetic code to teach the body how to fight off the real virus. But the vaccine doesn’t change the person’s DNA in any way, according to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.Grafton police said Brandenburg had “intentionally” removed the vials from refrigerated storage at Advocate Aurora Health Hospital on Dec. 24 and Dec. 25, leaving them out to spoil overnight.A pharmacy technician discovered 57 vials of the Moderna vaccine outside the refrigerator where the vials were meant to be stored Dec. 26. Each vial contains 10 doses; the approximately 570 doses that were spoiled had a value of $11,000, police estimated. However, due to the current pandemic and limited supply, some consider the doses priceless.The Moderna vaccine must be kept refrigerated between 36 and 46 degrees Fahrenheit. Leaving it out of its temperature range can compromise its potency and “denature” the doses, according to Moderna.The police alleged Brandenburg tampered with the vials not only with the full knowledge they’d be rendered “effectively useless” but also knowing that anyone who received those doses would be put at greater risk.Fifty-seven of the compromised doses had already been administered by the time they were believed to be ineffective, Aurora Health Care Medical Group President Dr. Jeff Bahr said at a virtual press conference Thursday. The recipients of those doses were notified, Bahr said, and at the time, he said the remaining spoiled doses were then discarded.Gerol, however, said the initial reports on the status of the vaccine vials weren’t accurate.The DA said he was informed Monday that the vaccine doses that had been left out weren’t discarded but were sequestered by the hospital.Investigators are waiting on tests to determine if they were damaged in a way that rendered them unusable. The charges against Brandenburg could change depending on the status of the vials, according to Gerol.“The value of the drugs was somewhere between $8,00 and $12,000, but that, unfortunately all depends on whether they were in fact damaged or destroyed,” Gerol said. “If they were not, despite the defendant’s intent, there is no reckless endangering safety.”“You possibly have a crime in Wisconsin known as an attempted criminal damage to property,” Gerol explained. “That would be a misdemeanor.”Faced with that still-open technical question, the judge ordered the suspect to be released on a $10,000 signature bond. Brandenburg, who was fired from the hospital after his arrest, was ordered to surrender his firearms and was barred from serving as a pharmacist.The suspect’s attorney declined to comment to ABC News. Brandenburg’s next court date is Jan. 19. It is not immediately known when investigators’ test results on the tampered vials will be ready.Brandenburg sat mostly silent through the court proceedings, dialing in from the Ozaukee jail, wearing an orange shirt, glasses and a mask. He spoke only once, responding to a direct question whether he had any questions regarding the conditions of his release.The Grafton Police Department said it is conducting the investigation along with the FBI and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.Two complaints by coworkers about Bradenburg allegedly bringing a weapon to work have been launched with the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services, a department spokesperson tells ABC.A department prosecutor has officially opened an investigation into those complaints, which will be evaluated appropriately as to his licensure in the state.Aurora Health will continue to work with Moderna and the Food and Drug Administration to identify a strategy for future vaccinations for the 57 affected individuals, Bahr said. He emphasized that “this was a situation involving a bad actor, as opposed to a bad process.”In the village of Grafton, about a 25-minute drive north from Milwaukee, Brandenburg’s neighbor told ABC News the suspect kept to himself.“I didn’t even know he was a pharmacist,” Tim Skow, 54, told ABC News, saying Brandenburg would wave across the way while mowing the lawn, but was not particularly outgoing in what Skow described as an otherwise “close-knit” community.Skow said he was disturbed at the thought his own neighbor could have been allegedly involved in something so malicious.“It’s actually scary. Pharmacists are supposed to help people, not hurt them,” he said.Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.last_img read more

Coronavirus live updates: Nearly 8,000 people hospitalized with COVID in Los Angeles County

first_imgSamara Heisz/iStockBy MORGAN WINSOR, ERIN SCHUMAKER and EMILY SHAPIRO, ABC News(NEW YORK) — A pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now infected more than 88.3 million people worldwide and killed over 1.9 million of them, according to real-time data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.Here’s how the news is developing Friday. All times Eastern:Jan 10, 5:33 amUK Health Secretary says every adult in country will receive vaccine by autumnUK Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed on Sunday morning that every adult in the United Kingdom will be offered the coronavirus vaccine by the fall. Speaking on The Andrew Marr Show on BBC, Hancock said that the vaccine will be distributed according to need and that the British government has over 350 million doses of the vaccine on order.“We are going to have enough to be able to offer a vaccine to everyone over the age of 18 and by the autumn,” Hancock said in the interview.Hancock also said that the priority is to immunize the most vulnerable 13 million people in the country by the middle of February — something he confirmed to Sky News on Sunday that the U.K. government was on track to accomplish.Jan 09, 10:24 pmNumbers increasing nationwide post-holidaysNew numbers from The COVID Tracking Project are showing the dire situation facing the country right now, especially in the West.There were just shy of 700 deaths reported in California on Saturday, with the state now averaging 410 death per day over the last seven days. The seven-day average for cases is up in 38 states since last week, including most states in the West, according to The COVID Tracking Project. In addition to the pandemic ravaging California, Montana and Washington have the second- and third-highest increases, respectively.There were more deaths, cases and average hospitalizations this past week than any other during the pandemic, according to the project.The report released Saturday showed a record seven-day average for total hospitalizations (130,350) and daily deaths (3,091). There were 3,500 deaths nationwide reported on Saturday.Jan 09, 8:54 pmNearly 8,000 currently hospitalized in LA CountyThe record-setting COVID-19 numbers continue to skyrocket in Los Angeles County.The county crossed 900,000 confirmed cases on Saturday — more than twice as many as any other county in the nation. There were also another 221 deaths reported Saturday, bringing the total to 12,084. Sixty-five of the people who were reported dead on Saturday were 30 to 64 years old, the remaining were older. LA County alone has more total deaths than 41 U.S. states.There are currently 7,966 people hospitalized with coronavirus in the county, 22% of whom are in the intensive care unit.“To the families and friends experiencing the sorrow of losing of a loved one due to COVID-19, we send you our deepest condolences,” Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the county’s health director, said in a statement. “This is another devastating day for Los Angeles County. The speed with which we are reaching grim milestones of COVID-19 deaths and cases is a devastating reflection of the immense spread that is occurring across the county. And this accelerated spread reflects the many unsafe actions individuals took over the holidays.”Of the 4.96 million people tested so far in the county, 17% have tested positive.ABC News’ Bonnie McLean contributed to this report.Jan 09, 2:41 pm3 new cases of UK variant detected in New YorkThree more cases of the U.K. COVID-19 variant have been detected in New York state, Gov. Cuomo said Saturday. Two of the cases were in Saratoga County and one in Nassau County.The governor blasted the federal government for what he said did nothing to stop the arrival of the variant in the state.There have been 259,000 vaccines to date this week in New York. With the state’s current allocation of 300,000 vaccine doses per week, it will take 14 weeks to vaccinate all of 1A and 1B groups.A vaccine call center will open 4 p.m. on Monday and a website will go live the same day at 8 a.m. for New York.– ABC News’ Jamie A. AranoffJan 09, 1:54 pmQueen Elizabeth, Duke of Edinburgh receive COVID-19 vaccinations“The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh have today received Covid-19 vaccinations,” according to a statement from a Buckingham Palace spokesperson Saturday.The vaccinations were administered by a Household Doctor at Windsor Castle, according to a Royal source.The announcement was made to the public “to prevent inaccuracies and further speculation” and “Her Majesty decided that she would let it be known she has had the vaccination,” according to a statement from the Royal Communications at Buckingham Palace.– ABC News’ Zoe MageeJan 09, 3:04 amCuomo expands vaccine eligibility for New YorkersNew York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced Friday the expansion of “the state’s vaccination distribution network to help accelerate the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine” to residents under groups 1A and 1B, according to a release.Thanks to this, essential workers and residents over the age of 75 can begin to make vaccination reservations at administration sites as early as next Monday, Jan. 11.“Over the past week, we have seen hospitals increase their vaccination rates and I thank them for their efforts, but it’s still not enough, so we’re going to accelerate the distribution,” Cuomo said.Thousands of new providers statewide will help vaccinate health care workers, essential workers and individuals 75 and older.“The federal government controls the supply, so as we continue to receive more, New York will not only ensure doses are distributed in the most fair and socially equitable way possible, but that health care workers continue to be prioritized so our hospitals remain safe and staffed,” Cuomo added.Group 1B, the largest group, is comprised of 3.2 million New Yorkers, including 870,000 education workers, 207,000 first responders, 100,000 public safety workers, 100,000 public transit workers and 1.4 million people 75 and older, the release states. All of these people will now be eligible to receive the vaccine. Prior to Cuomo’s announcement, only the 2.1 million New Yorkers in group 1A were eligible to receive the vaccine.Jan 08, 8:47 pmUS crosses 300K new daily cases for 1st timeThe U.S. has surpassed 300,000 new daily COVID-19 cases for the first time, according to The COVID Tracking Project.There were 310,080 new cases reported Friday. New Jersey and California both “greatly influenced” the surge in cases, the tracker said. New Jersey reported nearly 20,000 probable COVID-19 cases and California had over 50,000 cases.Sixteen states also reported record COVID-19 hospitalizations this week, the tracker said: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Georgia, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.Hospitalizations in California and Arizona in particular are increasing at an alarming rate, it noted.Jan 08, 5:07 pmPfizer vaccine likely to work against new, rapidly-spreading variants: StudyA new study says Pfizer’s vaccine is likely to work against the new, rapidly-spreading variants of COVID-19.Dr. Pei-Yong Shi of the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston told ABC News this is “the first study to show that one of the most prominent mutations in the fast-spreading UK and the South African strain … doesn’t affect the neutralizing activity of the current vaccine.” Some of the antibodies produced by the vaccine “may be weakened by a single mutation, but others will remain active,” he said, which he believes will continue to provide protection from the variants.Although Shi only studied Pfizer’s vaccine, he said the results “can be generated to the other vaccine platforms,” including Moderna and AstraZeneca.The vaccines “are all based on the same sequence of the spike protein,” he said, “so I will not be surprised that it will be it will be the same result.” While the U.K. variant that’s been confirmed in several U.S. states appears to spread more rapidly, there’s no evidence that it’s more deadly.ABC News’ Sony Salzman contributed to this report.Jan 08, 4:43 pmFlorida State Rep. asks those returning from Capitol to quarantine, get testedFlorida State Rep. Mike Caruso, a Republican who represents Boca Raton, told ABC News he is concerned about people who attended the U.S. Capitol riot coming back to his district — where there’s a high elderly population — and spreading COVID-19. “I would ask them to quarantine when they do come back and to go get tested,” Caruso said, adding that they should be tested before flying home.ABC News’ Sasha Pezenik contributed to this report.Jan 08, 4:33 pmBiden to get 2nd vaccine dose on MondayPresident-elect Joe Biden will get his second vaccine dose in public on Monday “to continue to instill confidence in the vaccine’s safety and efficacy,” said incoming White House press secretary Jen Psaki.This will be 21 days after Biden received the first dose, she said.When Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris receives her second dose, it will also be in public, she said.Psaki added, “The Biden-Harris transition team today started to vaccinate incoming members of the administration. Up to 35 individuals will be vaccinated.”“These individuals are people who will be in close proximity to the President or Vice President, who are critical members of the National Security team or are Cabinet nominees in the line of succession to the presidency,” she said. “These vaccinations are being conducted now so that these individuals can complete their inoculation shortly after January 20. The vaccine being used for this purpose is coming from supplies previously allocated to the White House medical unit.”ABC News’ John Verhovek and Molly Nagle contributed to this report.Jan 08, 3:31 pmNFL stadium to open as 24/7 vaccination site in ArizonaState Farm Stadium, home of the Arizona Cardinals, will open as a 24/7 vaccination site on Monday, Gov. Doug Ducey said.The site aims to “vaccinate thousands more individuals each day as Maricopa County, the state’s largest county, moves into Phase 1B of vaccine distribution,” the governor’s office said. “The start of that phase prioritizes protective service workers, teachers and K-12 school staff, child care workers, and those age 75 and older.”State Farm Stadium will offer vaccines beginning Monday for law enforcement and other protective service workers. Appointments for others in Phase 1B and Phase 1A will be available starting Tuesday.Jan 08, 2:16 pmCalifornia reports over 50K cases in 1 dayCalifornia reported 50,030 new cases and an additional 493 deaths on Friday.Hospitalizations in the hard-hit state are down just 0.1%.Over 2.56 million people in the Golden State have been diagnosed with COVID-19.Jan 08, 12:15 pmUS reported more cases than ever before during 1st week of 2021In the first week of 2021, U.S. states and territories reported more cases than at any point in the pandemic so far, according to ABC News’ analysis of data compiled by the COVID Tracking Project. Cases are on the rise in every region of the country. The CDC reports that New Jersey leads the nation with the highest average of daily cases per 100,000 people in the last seven days, followed Arizona, Rhode Island, Arkansas and California.In New York, daily cases are nearly 50% higher than they were during the spring surge. The U.S. surpassed 132,000 patients in hospitals this week — meaning more people were hospitalized than during the peak of the spring and summer surges combined. Arizona, Nevada and Alabama currently hold the highest hospitalizations rates per million people in the country.Thursday marked the nation’s deadliest day on record with 4,085 deaths, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.Now, one in every 905 Americans has died from the virus. In the last week, the seven-day average of daily deaths increased by 18.6%.Jan 08, 11:45 amBiden will move to release more vaccine doses when he takes officePresident-elect Joe Biden will move to release more vaccine doses when he takes office, a departure from the current policy.“He supports releasing available doses immediately, and believes the government should stop holding back vaccine supply so we can get more shots in Americans’ arms now,” Biden transition spokesperson TJ Ducklo said in a statement. “He will share additional details next week on how his Administration will begin releasing available doses when he assumes office.”Transition officials have faith that the manufacturers that can produce enough vaccines to ensure people can get their second dose in a timely manner while also getting more people their first dose, according to one official.ABC News also obtained a letter from a group of eight Democratic governors to HHS Secretary Alex Azar and Operation Warp Speed Chief Operating Officer Gen. Gus Perna. “Our states are ready to work around the clock to ramp up distribution, get more shots in arms, and save more American lives.”“General Perna, as you have stated before, ‘a vaccine sitting on a shelf is not effective.’ We couldn’t agree with you more,” the governors wrote in part. “That’s why we are asking for your help now.”Jan 08, 10:46 amNYC police commissioner tests positiveNew York City’s police commissioner, Dermot Shea, has tested positive for COVID-19 and is “doing well,” NYPD spokesman Rich Esposito told ABC News. Shea is at home and “running the department remotely,” he said. Esposito said the commissioner regularly attends functions and is in close contact with people all the time.  “He takes extensive precautions, but the COVID rate is increasing in the city,” he said.So far this month, 463 NYPD members have tested positive for COVID-19. As of Thursday, New York City’s seven-day average positivity rate stood at 9.21%.Jan 08, 9:24 amHospitalizations on rise in London, mayor declares ‘major incident’London Mayor Sadiq Khan has declared a “major incident” as the virus’ spread threatens to overwhelm the city’s hospitals.One in 30 Londoners now has COVID-19, the mayor said.The city has 7,034 people currently hospitalized — a 35% increase from the April peak.The number of people in hospitals jumped by 27% from Dec. 30 to Jan. 6, Khan said.The London Ambulance Service is now taking up to 8,000 calls per day, when an average day would bring 5,500 calls.“The stark reality is that we will run out of beds for patients in the next couple of weeks unless the spread of the virus slows down drastically,” Khan said. “We are declaring a major incident because the threat this virus poses to our city is at crisis point. If we do not take immediate action now, our NHS could be overwhelmed and more people will die.” Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.last_img read more