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A pharmacist in Grafton, Wisconsin, who essentially destroyed hundreds of doses of a COVID-19 vaccine says he did it because he believed in the long-debunked conspiracy that the shots would alter and mutate human DNA, according to court documents released Monday.
Police arrested 46-year-old Steven Brandenburg, a pharmacist at Advocate Aurora Health, last week after he allegedly left vials of the Moderna vaccine out of refrigeration for more than 12 hours on two separate occasions, ruining more than 500 doses worth as much as $11,000, according to the Associated Press. The pharmacist later admitted that he purposely destroyed the vaccines because of his belief that the vaccine would harm people, according to a detective involved in the case.
Charges are currently pending against Brandenburg.
"He was pretty cooperative and fully admitted he'd done—and gave him a full confession that he'd done exactly this," Ozaukee County District Attorney Adam Gerol said during a virtual hearing Monday, according to a local CBS affiliate. "His intent was to destroy the medication."
As early as September—when scientists and researchers began inching closer to developing a viable vaccine for the virus that has killed more than 1.8 million people—social media posts began surfacing that claimed, without evidence, that the shot could harm a recipient because the mRNA in the vaccine can alter their genetics permanently. The release of the COVID-19 vaccine marks the first time mRNA technology has been used in a vaccine available to the public.
In reality, mRNA is just messenger RNA that signals to create proteins similar to the makeup of the deadly COVID-19 virus, which helps the body build up an effective defense.
“mRNA isn’t the same as DNA, and it can’t combine with our DNA to change our genetic code,” according to GAVI, an international organization dedicated to understanding vaccines.
Several media outlets and social media platforms have tried to reduce the spread of misinformation campaigns around the virus, but those efforts haven’t been effective enough to stop the theories in their tracks.
In the weeks leading up to his arrest, Brandenburg had become increasingly paranoid, according to an affidavit filed by his wife and obtained by the AP. He admitted that he believed the “world was crashing down” and that the government had plans to shut down the power grid. She also said that he had been storing food and guns in a rental unit and dropped some supplies off at her house on December 6. (Brandenburg’s wife filed for divorce last June.)
Gerol also said that Brandenburg had brought a gun to work on two separate occasions, according to an employee at Aurora.