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Ex-pharmacist sentenced to prison for tampering with COVID-19 vaccines

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(GRAFTON, Wis.) — The former Wisconsin pharmacist who pleaded guilty to deliberately tampering over 500 COVID-19 vaccine doses was sentenced Tuesday to three years in federal prison.

Steven Brandenburg, 46, of Grafton, Wisconsin, pleaded guilty in February to two counts of attempting to tamper with consumer products with reckless disregard for the risk that another person will be placed in danger of death or bodily injury.

Brandenburg admitted to removing 57 vials — approximately 500 doses — of the Moderna vaccine from cold storage at Advocate Aurora Health Hospital on Dec. 24 and Dec. 25 last year, letting them spoil.

About 57 doses from the tampered vials were distributed to patients before doctors learned about the tampering, according to federal prosecutors.

During his appearance in a federal court in Milwaukee, Brandenburg expressed regret.

“I am desperately sorry and ashamed for what I did to these people,” he said, according to ABC affiliate WISN-TV in Milwaukee.

Federal prosecutors had recommended a longer sentence of 51 months.

Brandenburg was under house arrest at his parents’ home since the plea deal and turned himself in to federal custody in the afternoon, according to the courts.

He will be on federal probation for three years after his release as part of his sentencing.

The suspect said he was skeptical of vaccines in general and the Moderna vaccine specifically, citing baseless conspiracies, according to the plea agreement he made with federal prosecutors in January.

Brandenburg was arrested on New Year’s Eve but released unconditionally after investigators said they needed more time to determine how many vaccines were tampered with.

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