A Houston doctor fired for allegedly stealing doses of coronavirus vaccine says he's not the villain that news reports around the world make him out to be. Hasan Gokal tells the New York Times that after a nurse punctured an 11-dose vial to administer a vaccination at an event to vaccinate emergency workers on Dec. 29 wound down, he had to figure out what to do with the remaining doses before they expired within hours. Gokal, who was supervising the event, says health workers and police officers at the site either turned him down or had already been vaccinated. He says that after a Harris County official approved his plan to distribute the remaining doses, he started calling people in his phone's contact list on his drive home to find eligible recipients.
Gokal says he vaccinated nine mostly elderly people, including a woman in her 90s, but had one dose left after the final recipient called soon before the deadline to say they couldn't make it to his home. He says that with minutes to spare, he vaccinated his wife, whose pulmonary condition made her eligible. Gokal says he told her: "I didn’t intend to give this to you, but in a half-hour I’m going to have to dump this down the toilet." He was fired days after he told his supervisor about the vaccinations and submitted paperwork. He says officials told him he should have brought the doses back to the office—where they would have expired—or been thrown away. He was accused of stealing the vaccine doses, worth $135. A judge dismissed the charge days later, but the local district attorney plans to present it to a grand jury, ABC13 reports. The Texas Medical Association has issued a statement of support for doctors who take steps to avoid wasting doses. (Read more coronavirus vaccine stories.)