Texas doctor Hassan Gokal, who was fired and accused of stealing doses of coronavirus vaccine, defended his decision, saying he would not let the vaccines run out and go to waste.
“It’s a county of 5 million people and we had the first 3,000 doses. There was no room to dump any of them. Never.” Gokal, previously a doctor with Harris County Public Health Department of Texas and Medical Director for the distribution of vaccines in the county, said in interview with CBS News.
“When you have something so valuable, life-saving, it will hurt you to throw it away,”
The incident happened on December 29 and Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg accused him shortly afterwards of stealing 10 doses at a vaccination site. The charge could result in a $ 4,000 fine and one year in prison.
Gokal told CBS News that at the end of the night there were 10 doses left at the vaccination site and he had to administer them after six hours, otherwise they would expire.
Gokal wanted to use the last 10 doses and checked with all the officers and police who were at the vaccination event, but they either already had the vaccine or refused it. He says he checked with a Harris County public health officer to find 10 people to administer, and the officer agreed.
“At this point, I’m starting to look at my phone list, wondering who might qualify for the vaccine,” Gokal told CBS News.
He found nine people who were elderly or had health conditions that put them at higher risk of dying from the virus. In the last minutes before the vaccine expired, he vaccinated his wife, as he could not find anyone else and only one dose remained.
His wife has pulmonary sarcoidosis, a lung disease that he says qualifies her for the vaccine.
“He abused his position to put his friends and family in line in front of people who went through the legal process to be there,” Og said in a statement. “What he did is illegal and he will be held accountable under the law.”
A judge dismissed the charges, but Og still considered the case before a grand jury.