HARRIS COUNTY DOCTOR CHARGED WITH STEALING COVID-19 VACCINE — A Houston-area doctor has been charged with intentionally stealing a vial of coronavirus vaccine, according to the Harris County prosecutor.
Harris County prosecutors say that Dr. Hasan Gokal has been charged with theft by a public servant for taking a vial of COVID-19 vaccine. Gokal is facing up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine.
Prosecutors made their announcement on Thursday in Houston, according to NBC News and CBS News.
Gokal, who worked for Harris County Public Health, allegedly stole a vial that contained nine doses of a vaccine while working at a county vaccination site in Humble on Dec. 29. He told a fellow employee a week later, and that employee reported him to his supervisors, the Hill reports.
The health department investigated the matter, and Gokal then was fired. The Harris County District Attorney said Gokal disregarded national protocols to ensure that vaccine is not wasted but to administer it to populations and front-line workers on a waiting list.
“He abused his position to place his friends and family in line in front of people who had gone through the lawful process to be there,” the Harris County District Attorney said in a statement. “What he did was illegal and he’ll be held accountable under the law.”
The two COVID-19 vaccines currently approved for use both need to be stored at ultra-cold temperatures and expire if left at room temperature for too long. In a statement to NBC News, Gokal's attorney claims that he opened a new vial for a patient who had arrived at the office shortly before the office closed.
Instead of allowing the doses to expire, Goakl decided to reach out to friends and family.
“[Gokal is 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 policy,” he said.
This story was originally published by Tim Griffin on KRIS in Corpus Christi, Texas.