A hospital employee outside Milwaukee deliberately spoiled more than 500 doses of covid coronavirus vaccine by removing 57 vials from a pharmacy refrigerator, hospital officials announced Wednesday, as local police said they were investigating the incident with the help of federal authorities.
Initiating an internal review on Monday, hospital officials said they were initially “led to believe” the incident was caused by “inadvertent human error.” The vials were removed Friday and most were discarded Saturday, with only a few still safe to administer, according to an earlier statement from the health system. Each vial has enough for 10 vaccinations but can sit at room temperature for only 12 hours.
Two days later, the employee acknowledged having “intentionally removed the vaccine from refrigeration,” the hospital, Aurora Medical Center in Grafton, Wis., said in a statement late Wednesday.
The employee, who has not been identified, was fired, the hospital said. Its statement did not address the worker’s motives but said “appropriate authorities” were promptly notified.
Wednesday night, police in Grafton, a village of about 12,000 that lies 20 miles north of Milwaukee, said they were investigating along with the FBI and the Food and Drug Administration. In a statement, the local police department said it had learned of the incident from security services at Aurora Health Care’s corporate office in Milwaukee. The system serves eastern Wisconsin and northern Illinois, and includes 15 hospitals and more than 150 clinics.
Leonard Peace, an FBI spokesman in Milwaukee, would not comment on the Bureau’s involvement but said of the episode, “We’re aware of it.” The FDA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The tampering will delay inoculation for hundreds of people, Aurora Health officials said, in a state where 3,170 new cases were reported and 40 people died Wednesday of covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, according to The Washington Post’s coronavirus tracker.
“We are more than disappointed that this individual’s actions will result in a delay of more than 500 people receiving the vaccine,” the health system said in a statement.