Watch CBS News

Wisconsin pharmacist sentenced to 3 years in prison for tampering with COVID-19 vaccine doses

Pharmacist arrested after alleged vaccine tampering
Pharmacist arrested after allegedy tampering with vaccine doses 02:09

A former pharmacist in Wisconsin who intentionally tampered with more than 500 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine was sentenced to three years in prison on Tuesday. Steven Brandenburg, 46, pleaded guilty in February to two felony counts of attempting to tamper with a consumer product.

He had admitted to intentionally removing the doses manufactured by Moderna from a refrigerator for hours at Aurora Medical Center in Grafton, located just north of Milwaukee.

In a statement before receiving his sentence, Brandenburg said he felt "great shame" and accepted responsibility for his actions. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported he apologized to his co-workers, family and the community.

"I did not have the right to make this decision for them," he said, according to the newspaper. "I'm tormented by it daily."

Steven Brandenburg
Steven Brandenburg Ozaukee County Sheriff's Office via AP

Aurora destroyed most of the tampered doses, but not before 57 people received inoculations from the supply. Those doses are believed to have still been effective, but weeks of uncertainty created a storm of anger, anxiety and anguish among the recipients, according to court documents.

Prosecutors asked for a sentence of four years and three months. Brandenburg faced a maximum penalty of 10 years of imprisonment and $250,000 in fines for each felony count.

Brandenburg is an admitted conspiracy theorist who believes he is a prophet and vaccines are a product of the devil. He also professed a belief that the Earth is flat and the 9/11 terrorist attacks were faked.

Brandenburg also secretly substituted saline for flu vaccine that he was mandated to receive and persuaded several co-workers to secretly swap saline for their flu vaccine as well, according to court filings.

(In 2020, CBSN Originals explored how evidence-based science is under fire in "The War on Science.")

The War on Science 24:54
View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.