A Texas doctor had a terrible choice one night in late December. The remaining doses in a vial of the COVID-19 vaccine would go bad within hours unless injected into patients who wanted it, but Dr. Hasan Gokal couldn’t find enough. Rather than throw them away, Gokal traveled through his community, unearthing enough people willing to take the vaccines before they expired. With only a few minutes to go and no one else available, Gokal gave his wife the final dose.
Is Gokal a hero for ensuring these doses result in vaccines, driving efforts to reduce community transmission? Or is Gokal a thief, and worse still, a criminal against “fairness”?
The Texas doctor had six hours. Now that a vial of the Covid-19 vaccine had been opened tonight in December, he had to find 10 people eligible for the remaining doses before the precious drug expired. In six hours.
Struggling, the doctor made house calls and directed people to his home on the outskirts of Houston. Some were known; others, strangers. A nonagenarian bedridden. A woman in her 80s with dementia. A mother with a son who uses a fan.
After midnight, and a few minutes before the vaccine became unusable, doctor Hasan Gokal gave the last dose to his wife, who suffers from a lung disease that leaves her breathless.
For his actions, Dr. Gokal was fired from his government job and later charged with stealing 10 doses of vaccines worth a total of $ 135, a misdemeanor worth evading that sent his name and mugshot all over the world. world.
AHASome might think that the dose his wife received is what angered authorities. However, Gokal’s wife has severe chronic lung dysfunction and may well have qualified by federal standards to receive the injection at that time. However, that was not the problem that angered Gokal’s employer. Instead, it was Gokal’s lack of focus on “fairness” that tipped the balance and led to his firing, at least according to Gokal’s testimony:
Several days later, the doctor said, that supervisor and the director of human resources summoned him to ask if he had administered 10 doses outside of the event scheduled for Dec. 29. He said yes, in accordance with guidelines not to waste the vaccine … and was immediately fired.
Officials maintained that he had violated protocol and should have returned the remaining doses to the office or thrown them away, the doctor recalled. He also said that one of the officials startled him by questioning the lack of “equity” among those he had vaccinated.
“Are you suggesting that there were too many Indian names in that group?” Dr. Gokal said he asked.
Exactly, he said they told him.
This was, and still is, precisely the problem with the vaccine launches. Officials inside and outside government have focused on “fairness” issues to such an extent that they prefer messing up the vaccine doses than to leave them in willing arms. Not that equity issues don’t matter at all, but a deadly pandemic needs vaccinations to be carried out as widely and quickly as possible. Each missed dose is another person who can still transmit the virus, and who can produce mutations that could make the pandemic worse.
Rather than praise Gokal’s agility in ensuring no doses are wasted, his employer canned him and Harris County prosecutors charged him with theft. A judge dismissed the charge, writing that he “emphatically rejects” the notion of theft in the context of a doctor vaccinating people in the middle of a public health emergency. Nonetheless, prosecutors decided to take the case to the grand jury to see if they could reinstate the theft charge against Gokal.
One has to wonder, however, what another judge will do with the case even with a grand jury bill after Judge Franklin Bynum’s reprimand of prosecutors the first time. Hopefully that judge will also figure out that this clown show is a short car. Gokal needs to be reinstated and grateful, not kicked out of his profession for making sure the doses of the COVID-19 vaccine are not wasted. And you have to wonder how many more doses are left to spoil to this day from the spectacle of this persecution of Gokal for doing his job.