Doc 'Persecuted' for Taking Vaccines Goes Free

'It was the right thing to do and it meant saving more lives,' Houston doctor says
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 1, 2021 4:09 AM CDT
No Indictment for Doctor Accused of Vaccine Theft
In this photo provided by David Oates, Dr. Hasan Gokal, second left, is pictured with his wife, two daughters and son.   (Courtesy of David Oates via AP)

A grand jury on Wednesday declined to indict a former Houston-area health department doctor who was accused of stealing nine doses of coronavirus vaccine from a damaged vial and administering them to family and friends. Prosecutors had alleged that Dr. Hasan Gokal, who worked for Harris County Public Health, stole a vial of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine while working at a vaccination site at a suburban Houston park on Dec. 29. His attorney said Gokal was only trying to save lives by using doses that would have been thrown away. But grand jurors in Harris County, where Houston is located, decided no criminal charges were warranted, the AP reports. The grand jury’s decision comes after a judge in January dismissed a theft charge prosecutors had filed against Gokal.

In an interview with the AP, Gokal, 48, said when he was confronted with the possibility that a life saving vaccine could be lost, he made the decision to find eligible people late at night who could be given the expiring doses. "It was the right thing to do and it meant saving more lives," he says. Paul Doyle, Gokal’s attorney, criticized the decision by prosecutors to pursue charges, saying Gokal's supervisor had approved his plan for the leftover vaccine doses. "There is no other case that I know of in the country where a doctor went above and beyond and was persecuted for it," Doyle said. Gokal said he would still like to work in some capacity in public health but worries the theft accusation has put this in danger. Since he was fired by the county health department, he has worked part time in the emergency departments at two Houston hospitals.

(More coronavirus vaccine stories.)

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