A doctor in Harris County, Texas, has been accused of taking a vial of COVID-19 vaccine for his personal use.
Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg announced Thursday that Dr. Hasan Gokal was being charged with theft by a public servant after allegedly stealing a vial of the vaccine containing nine doses.
The vaccine theft allegedly happened on Dec. 29, when Gokal was working at the county vaccination site at Lyndsay Lyons Park in Humble, according to a department release.
Gokal reportedly told a fellow employee about the vial a week after the alleged theft. That employee then reported him to supervisors.
Mishandling the coronavirus vaccine can result in a loss of government funding, so Gokal was fired after the alleged theft was discovered.
The office of Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and the office of County Attorney Christian Menefee contacted prosecutors.
“He abused his position to place his friends and family in line in front of people who had gone through the lawful process to be there,” Ogg said. “What he did was illegal and he’ll be held accountable under the law.”
The current Harris County protocols are intended to ensure the vaccine is not wasted and gets administered to vulnerable populations and front-line workers on a waiting list.
If convicted, Gokal faces a penalty of up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine.
Gokal is an emergency medicine physician in Houston who has been in practice at least a decade and is affiliated with multiple hospitals in the area.
In a statement sent to HuffPost, Gokal’s attorney, Paul Doyle, said his client is ”a dedicated public servant who ensured that COVID-19 vaccine dosages that would have otherwise expired went into the arms of people who met the criteria for receiving it.”
“Harris County would have preferred Dr. Gokal let the vaccines go to waste and are attempting to disparage this man’s reputation in the process to support this policy. We look forward to our day in court to right this wrong.”
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