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FBI investigating after hospital says worker intentionally removed vaccine from fridge

A Wisconsin hospital worker is accused of intentionally removing 57 vials of Covid-19 vaccine from a refrigerator overnight last week, an action that forced the hospital to discard those vials and has spurred an investigation by police and the FBI, officials said Wednesday.

The vials’ removal from refrigeration at Aurora Medical Center just north of Milwaukee, and the subsequent need to discard them Saturday, means more than 500 doses were lost, Advocate Aurora Health said.

“This was a violation of our core values, and the individual is no longer employed by us,” a Wednesday news release from the hospital system reads.

The doses’ destruction was widely reported earlier this week, when the hospital system said it believed vials of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine “were inadvertently removed from a pharmacy refrigerator” at the hospital.

But the worker on Wednesday “acknowledged that they intentionally removed the vaccine from refrigeration,” the system’s subsequent statement reads.

“We have notified appropriate authorities for further investigation. … We are more than disappointed that this individual’s actions will result in a delay of more than 500 people receiving their vaccine,” the statement reads.

Grafton police said the hospital system contacted them Wednesday evening about “an employee tampering with vials of the Covid-19 vaccine.”

“This matter is being actively investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Food and Drug Administration and the Grafton Police Department,” Grafton police said.

Neither police nor the health care system has publicly discussed a motive. The health care system said it would hold a news conference about the matter Thursday afternoon.

CNN has sought comment from the FBI.

Moderna says its vaccine generally must be stored at temperatures below what a refrigerator can provide. But, it can also last 30 days in normal refrigeration, allowing hospitals and pharmacies flexibility for storage and distribution.

The hospital system has not said how much time elapsed from when the vials were removed from the refrigerator and when they were discovered.

The vaccine can last for up to 12 hours out of a refrigerator, according to Moderna. An unspecified number of the removed vials were used to vaccinate some staff members within the 12-hour window, the hospital has said.

“Unfortunately, most of it had to be discarded,” the hospital’s initial statement read.

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