HOUSTON, Texas — A public health doctor in Texas has been charged with stealing a vial of Covid-19 vaccine, according to the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.
District Attorney Kim Ogg said in a statement Thursday that Dr. Hasan Gokal is accused of theft by a public servant, a misdemeanor that carries a penalty of up to one year in jail and a $4,000 fine.
Gokal is accused of taking a vial with nine doses on December 29, 2020. He was working at a vaccination site in Humble, north of Houston, Ogg said.
Authorities contend the doctor “disregarded county protocols in place to ensure vaccine is not wasted but administered to vulnerable populations and front-line workers on a waiting list.”
“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 in the statement. “What he did was illegal, and he’ll be held accountable under the law.”
Gokal’s attorney said his client looks forward to righting what he calls a wrong.
The doctor 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,” attorney Paul Doyle said in a statement. “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.”
Gokal told a fellow employee what he did and that person reported him to supervisors, authorities said. He was later fired.
Harris County Public Health said that it will not release a statement.
Doyle said he expected to have more to say on the matter Friday.
Gokal’s first court appearance has not been confirmed.
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