- Prosecutors identified the Advocate Aurora Health Care pharmacist who is accused of purposely removing Moderna vaccines as Steven Brandenburg, 46, in a hearing on Monday.
- According to court documents, Brandenburg admitted to following conspiracy theories about the vaccine, so he intentionally left doses out of refrigeration for long periods of time.
- "He'd formed this belief they were unsafe," Ozaukee County District Attorney Adam Gerol said Brandenburg's virtual hearing Monday, according to the AP.
- There is no proof that the Moderna vaccine can alter DNA.
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New information has emerged about the Wisconsin pharmacist whose employer said spoiled hundreds of doses of coronavirus vaccine.
According to court documents, the man believed conspiracy theories about the vaccine and believed that the world was "crashing down."
The pharmacist, identified by prosecutors as Steven Brandenburg, 46, was arrested last week by the Grafton Police Department after an internal investigation by his employer Advocate Aurora Health concluded that he had "intentionally" removed the 57 vials of the Moderna vaccine from a clinic refrigerator. Charges are pending.
Advocate Aurora Health initially claimed the pharmacist's actions were "human error" but moved to fire the employee and alert authorities, saying the act was intentional.
"He'd formed this belief they were unsafe," Ozaukee County District Attorney Adam Gerol said Brandenburg's virtual hearing Monday, according to the AP.
Gerol added that Brandenburg was disgruntled because he was in the process of divorce proceedings. An Aurora employee added that Brandenburg had brought a firearm to work on two occasions.
In a probable cause statement obtained by the AP, a detective wrote that Brandenburg was an admitted conspiracy theorist and added that the pharmacist told investigators he tried to ruin the vaccine because he believed it could harm people and change their DNA.
The claims that the Moderna vaccine could alter DNA are false according to experts and are part of a wave of COVID-19 misinformation circulating around the pandemic and vaccine.
Last week at a news conference, Advocate Aurora Health Care Chief Medical Group Officer Jeff Bahr said that during an internal investigation, Brandenburg admitted to purposely removing the vials from refrigeration at the Grafton medical center overnight on Dec. 24, and again on the night of Dec. 25.
On each occasion, the vials remained outside of refrigeration for over 12 hours, and Bahr said those doses were "all but useless."
Police last week said the discarded vaccines ranged in value between $8,000 and $11,000.
During the virtual hearing in Port Washington, Wisconsin, Gerol said that the vials were retained and Moderna will have to certify that the doses are ineffective and whether they were destroyed, before he can file charges against Bradenburg.
On Monday afternoon, Bradenburg posted the $10,000 signature bond by Judge Paul Malloy. The bond was set on the conditions that he surrenders his guns, no longer works in healthcare, and does not maintain any contact with Aurora employees.
Brandenburg's ongoing divorce was also thrust into the hearing Monday. According to an affidavit filed by his wife on December 30, Brandenburg stopped by her house on December 6, dropping off a water purifier, two months' worth of food, and told her that the world was "crashing down." She added that he told her that the government was engaging in cyberattacks and would soon shut down the power grid.
She also wrote that Bradenburg stockpiled guns and food in rental units and that she felt unsafe in his presence. The court also temporarily prohibited Brandenburg's children from staying with him on Monday.
Brandenburg's next hearing is set for January 19.
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