We talked about strange Covid-related crimes this year, but a controversy in Wisconsin raises a particularly challenging question. Attorney Aurora Health has admitted that an employee deliberately removed 57 vials of the Moderna vaccine from the refrigerator. The deliberate act, which was originally described as accidental, resulted in the destruction of 500 doses of the potentially vital vaccine. Attorney Aurora Health said the clerk had been fired. However, deliberately destroying the cans seems to be the ultimate case of product tampering: Either patients would be treated with compromised vaccines, or 500 people would have to wait longer for protection from Covid-19.
The FBI is reportedly investigating the incident. This seems like a serious crime amid a pandemic.
The Justice Department has investigated fraudulent Covid-19 vaccines or treatments. This is an effective destruction of a real vaccine. It is unclear whether this is manipulation. Section 1365 states:
(a) Whoever, with reckless disregard for the risk of another person being in danger of death or Mayhem and in circumstances that show extreme indifference to such risk, it manipulates any consumer product that affects, or affects, international or foreign trade labeling of or container for such a product or attempts to do so must –(1) if attempted under this Title, be fined or detained for no more than ten years or both; (2) when the death of an individual results in a fine under this title or is imprisoned for a period of years or for life or both; (3) if serious bodily harm on individual results, punished under that title or imprisoned for no more than twenty years or both; and (4) In any other case under this title, be fined or detained for no more than ten years or both.
(b) Anyone who taints a consumer product, or makes it materially false or misleading, with the intention of seriously damaging a person’s business labeling a consumer product or a container for a consumer product, if that consumer product interferes with international or foreign trade, a fine or a prison sentence of not more than three years or both is imposed under this title.
Both sections can apply to this circumstance.
This is a case where prosecution is the only effective deterrent. It is difficult for individuals to sue such defendants (or the hospital) due to the risk of contracting Covid-19, or even those who contracted the virus while waiting.
One of the questions for the FBI will be whether the person disclosed the manipulation or was willing to have the compromised vaccine administered to patients. However, despite this disclosure, 500 people are having to wait longer for a vaccine amid a national pandemic.