A since-fired doctor in Texas is being charged with theft after officials claim he took a vial of COVID-19 vaccine that contained nine doses back in December. In a press release posted Thursday, officials allege that Hasan Gokal took the doses to give to family and friends.
Gokal had been working at the Harris County vaccination site at Lyndsay Lyons Park at the time. He was fired after he told another Harris County Public Health employee of his alleged actions, and the employee then reported him to supervisors, according to Kim Ogg, Harris County District Attorney.
“He abused his position of power 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 press release. “What he did was illegal and he’ll be held accountable under the law.”
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Gokal’s attorney defended the man’s actions and in a statement told KHOU 11 said the doctor “ensured that COVID-19 vaccine dosages that would have otherwise expired went into the arms of people who met the criteria for receiving it.”
His attorney claims the county would have rather the vaccines go to waste. If convicted, he faces up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine.
Harris County remains under a “Level 1: Stay Home Work Safe” advisory, which officials say means “outbreaks are present and worsening.” At this time, residents are warned that testing and contact tracing capacity “is strained or exceeded.”
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Harris County, excluding the city of Houston, has seen nearly 149,000 cases of COVID-19, and over 1,140 deaths. Including Houston, the number of illnesses jumps to over 293,000 and more than 2,812 deaths. Currently, the county is only administering a limited supply of Moderna vaccine to health care professionals and people over 65, or those with underlying health conditions who qualify for eligibility.