Texas physician Hasan Gokal, who was fired and charged with stealing doses of the coronavirus vaccine, defended his decision, saying he was not going to let the doses of the vaccine expire and go to waste.
“This is a county of 5 million people and we had the first 3,000 thousand doses. There was no place to throw anything away. Never.” Gokal, formerly a physician with The Texas Harris County Department of Public Health and the county’s medical director for the vaccine launch said in a interview with CBS News.
“When you have something so precious, that it saves your life, it would hurt you to throw it away,” he added.
The incident occurred on December 29 and Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg charged him shortly after stealing 10 doses from a vaccination site. The charge could result in a $ 4,000 fine and a year in jail.
Gokal told CBS News there were 10 doses left at a vaccination site at the end of the night and that he needed to administer them within six hours or they would expire.
Gokal wanted to use the last 10 doses and consulted with all the employees and the police who were at the vaccination event, but they already had the vaccine or they rejected it. He says he checked with a Harris County public health official to see if he could find 10 people to manage it and the official agreed.
“At that point, I start going through my phone list, thinking about who might” qualify for the vaccine, Gokal told CBS News.
It found nine people who were elderly or had health problems that put them at higher risk of death from the virus. In the final minutes before the vaccine expired, he vaccinated his wife as he couldn’t find anyone else and he only had one dose left.
His wife has pulmonary sarcoidosis, a lung disease, which he believed qualified her for the vaccine.
“He abused his position to line up his friends and family in front of people who had gone through the legal process to be there,” Ogg said in a statement. “What he did was illegal and he will be held accountable by law.”
A judge dismissed the charges, but Ogg is still taking the case to a grand jury.