A Texan public health doctor charged with stealing a vial of Covid-19 vaccine tried to use leftover doses so they wouldn’t go to waste, his lawyer said Jan. 22.
Dr. Hasan Gokal has been charged with theft by an officer, an offense punishable by up to a year in prison and a fine of $ 4,000, Harris District Attorney Kim Ogg’s office said in a statement Thursday , January 21st, with.
Gokal is alleged to have ingested a nine-dose vial on December 29, 2020. He worked at a vaccination site in Humble, north of Houston, Ogg said.
Authorities claim the doctor “disregarded applicable county protocols to ensure that the vaccine is not wasted but given to vulnerable populations and frontline workers on a waiting list.”
“He has abused his position to put his friends and family in front of people who had gone through the lawful process to be there,” Ogg said in the statement. “What he did was illegal and he will be held accountable under the law.”
On Friday, Gokal’s attorney, Paul Doyle, said his client merely tried to use any remaining cans in an open vial instead of throwing them away.
Speaking at a press conference, Doyle said a new vial would need to be opened to give a vaccine to the last person who showed up around 6.45 p.m. CT on December 29, 2020, with 10 doses left.
“When you wrap it up, you have a vial with a six-hour shelf life,” said Doyle, “and Dr. Gokal is faced with what to do with it.”
According to Doyle, Gokal has reached out to law enforcement and local medical staff but they had already been vaccinated. Then he started contacting as many people as possible to find suitable recipients for the leftover cans.
Gokal eventually vaccinated several eligible people, Doyle said, including elderly people Gokal “provides pro bono drugs to” and several people he found through acquaintances.
“What Dr. Gokal is doing is trying to find people who qualify with the goal of not wasting and throwing this vaccine,” Doyle said.
With one dose left, Gokal vaccinated his wife – who Doyle said was also qualified – after another person who was going to receive the vaccine suddenly said he was not available.
“The claim that he put his family and friends first is absolutely false,” said Doyle.
Gokal told a colleague what he had done and that person reported him to superiors, authorities said. He was later fired.
But Doyle said Friday his client went to the office the next morning and followed the correct procedures for reporting doses administered. Doyle alleged his client was fired on Jan. 8 after confirming to staff representatives that he had vaccinated his wife.
The Harris County Attorney’s Office was asked to comment on Doyle’s press conference and sent CNN the charges on Gokal’s case.
These documents quoted the director of Harris County Public Health as advising investigators that any vials that had been punctured and contained viable doses should be returned to their main office and that a procedure was in place to ensure that they were left over Remaining doses were given to vulnerable frontline workers.
In addition, there is a secondary waiting list to ensure that every dose is given and not wasted, the documents say.
Harris County Public Health said it will not publish a statement.
Gokal has turned into authorities, said Doyle.