A pharmacist accused of trying to destroy hundreds of doses of coronavirus vaccine is a conspiracy theorist who believed the medication wasn’t safe, Wisconsin authorities alleged Monday.
The man, Steven Brandenburg, 46, was ordered held in lieu of $10,000 bond by Ozaukee County Circuit Court Judge Paul Malloy during a brief appearance.
Police in Grafton, about 20 miles north of Milwaukee, arrested Brandenburg, a pharmacist with Advocate Aurora Health, on Thursday after 57 vials of the Moderna vaccine appeared to have been spoiled. Police said Brandenburg took the vaccine doses from a refrigerator and left them out for 12 hours, possibly rendering them useless.
Each vial contained 10 doses; in total, the material was worth $8,550 to $11,400, according to a probable cause statement by Grafton police Detective Sgt. Eric Sutherland.
Brandenburg is an “admitted conspiracy theorist,” and he “told investigators that he believed that Covid-19 vaccine was not safe for people and could harm them and change their DNA,” Sutherland wrote.
“He admitted this was an intentional act,” the probable cause statement added.
Brandenburg was initially booked on suspicion of recklessly endangering safety, adulterating a prescription drug and criminal damage to property.
However, it wasn’t immediately clear whether the actions ruined the doses or whether they could still be effectively administered, Ozaukee County District Attorney Adam Gerol said.
Officials from Moderna would have to examine the doses and conclude whether they were ruined, Gerol said.
If the doses were not destroyed despite having been left outside the refrigerator, the charges could be downgraded, prosecutors said.
Brandenburg did not have to enter a plea during this first court appearance Monday. The procedural hearing was held virtually to adhere to coronavirus safety protocols.
While the judge and the prosecutor were in court, Brandenburg appeared from jail and his lawyer appeared from another locale. Brandenburg’s lawyer acknowledged his presence on behalf of Brandenburg but did not appear to make any other substantive comments.