Wisconsin pharmacist busted for sabotaging Covid vaccine doses was “an admitted conspiracy theorist”

Prosecutors allege that Steven Brandenburg deliberately removed vials of the Moderna vaccine from cold storage as he believed it was unsafe and would mutate people’s DNA.


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mugshot of Wisconsin pharmacist Steven Brandenburg
Steven Brandenburg
(Ozaukee County Sheriff/AP)

Hopes for a return to a pre-pandemic golden age appear largely pinned on the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine – though of course that’s not a train everyone is keen to board.

Worryingly, concerns about the safety of vaccine are so entrenched that up to 50% of frontline healthcare workers in some California counties have already refused priority doses.

But if forgoing the personal chance to be among the first to receive the much-heralded panacea is one thing, actively disrupting the supply chain for others is quite another.

A Wisconsin pharmacist arrested last Thursday for doing just that – allegedly sabotaging more than 500 doses of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine – has now been described by authorities as “an admitted conspiracy theorist” who was convinced the shots would mutate human DNA.

Steven Brandenburg, 46, a pharmacist with Advocate Aurora Health, had also been hoarding food in the belief that the world was “crashing down,” prosecutors allege in in court documents released Monday.

He is accused of deliberately spoiling 57 vials of the Moderna vaccine – enough to inoculate at least 500 people – over the Christmas period.

The Aurora Medical Center in Grafton, Wis.
The Aurora Medical Center in Grafton, Wis., where, according to prosecutors, Steven Brandenburg deliberately removed hundreds of coronavirus vaccine doses from refrigeration and left them out overnight twice
(Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel/AP)

“He’d formed this belief they were unsafe,” Ozaukee County District Attorney Adam Gerol said at a virtual hearing.

One detective working on the case described the pharmacist as “an admitted conspiracy theorist” who thought the vaccine could hurt people, court records show.

Brandenburg, a father of two young children in the midst of a divorce, appeared at his estranged wife’s home on Dec. 30 with two 30-day supplies of food, telling her she was in denial about the world “crashing down,” an affidavit claims.

Meanwhile, he had been hoarding food in bulk and firearms in rental units, his wife said in the affidavit; he had also taken a gun to work twice, according to DA Gerol.

Brandenburg allegedly removed vials of the vaccine from cold storage at the Aurora Medical Center in Grafton and left them out overnight twice – on Christmas Eve, and again on Christmas night.

A pharmacy technician discovered the unrefrigerated vials on Dec. 26, leading Brandenburg to claim he had been moving the vials and forgot to return them to the fridge.

The Moderna vaccine is viable for just 12 hours without refrigeration, and the spoiled doses were worth as much as $11,000, according to the medical center.

Brandenburg was released on bond, requiring him to pay $10,000 if he fails to appear in court, Grafton Police Sgt. Patrick Brock told CNN.

The extent of the damage to the exposed vaccines needs to be determined before criminal charges are filed in the case, prosecutors said.

Claims that the Covid-19 vaccine can alter DNA and cause serious side effects have been circulating online for months, despite experts maintaining that such conspiracy theories are patently false.

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