July 1, 2021 -- A Texas grand jury has declined to indict a former health department doctor who was accused of theft because he took nine doses of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine that were about to expire and gave them to acquaintances and friends.
Hasan Gokal, MD, was fired from his job and charged with theft by a public servant. A judge dismissed the theft charge in January, saying there was no probable cause, but prosecutors took the accusation to the Harris County Grand Jury, which on Wednesday decided no prosecution was warranted, The Associated Press reported.
“I came as a practicing ER doctor into public health and as an ER doctor, I err on the side of life and that’s how I chose to make my decision,” Gokal told the Associated Press. “It was the right thing to do and it meant saving more lives.”
Gokal, 48, was supervising a COVID-19 vaccination clinic Dec. 29 in Humble, TX, when the clinic closed for the day with an open vial containing nine doses of Moderna vaccine, The New York Times reported.
Since the vaccine would expire in 6 hours, Gokal scrambled to find people with medical conditions who needed vaccinating, he said. He gave the last dose to this wife, who has a lung condition, pulmonary sarcoidosis, he said.
Gokal said he contacted his supervisor before acting and provided documentation the next day. He was fired for breaking protocol and then charged with theft.
“He abused his position to place his friends and family in line in front of people who had gone through the lawful process to be there,” Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said in a January statement. “What he did was illegal and he’ll be held accountable under the law.”
The AP reported that on Wednesday the DA’s office issued a statement saying, “We respect the decision of the grand jury in this and every case. Evidence, not public opinion, is the guiding principle of our work.”
The AP said numerous doctors voiced support for Gokal and that the Texas Medical Board dismissed an investigation against him.
Gokal told the AP he’d still like to work in public health. Since being fired by the health department, he’s worked part-time in the emergency departments at two Houston hospitals.