Houston Doc who Administered Coronavirus Vaccine to Volunteers Rather Than Letting it Spoil Won’t Face Criminal Charges
A Houston doctor who lost his job and faced criminal charges for offering friends and family coronavirus vaccinations rather than allow the already opened vial of medicine to spoil appears to be out of legal jeopardy:
A judge has dropped the charge against Dr. Hasan Gokal, a former Harris County Public Health physician, who had been accused of stealing a vial of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine last month.
The case has generated a lot attention. It was officially a misdemeanor theft charge. The price tag is pretty small — $135 for 9 doses of COVID vaccine. The implications are much larger.
Dr. Hasan Gokal, a Harris County Public Health doctor, was accused of stealing a vial to help friends and family skip to the front of the vaccine line. This was when he was at a county vaccination site in Humble earlier this month.
He argues this was at the end of the day and the already-opened vial was going to spoil. He couldn’t find anyone to use them, so he contacted family and friends who qualified.
The Harris County District Attorney’s office says Gokal drove from Atascocita to Sugar Land to administer a dose to his wife and that violated health department policies, which says expiring unused vaccines should go to a hub site.
As we’ve said many times, common sense is a rare thing to find in government. It appears to be rarer still among overly-ambitious law enforcement officials:
Harris County’s district attorney, Kim Ogg, had just issued a news release that afternoon with the headline: “Fired Harris County Health Doctor Charged With Stealing Vial Of Covid-19 Vaccine.”
It alleged that Dr. Gokal “stole the vial” and disregarded county protocols to ensure that vaccines are not wasted and are administered to eligible people on a waiting list. “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,” Ms. Ogg said.
But Dr. Gokal said that no one from the district attorney’s office had ever contacted him to hear his version of events. And when his lawyer requested copies of the written protocols and waiting list referred to in the complaint, a prosecutor told him by email that there were no written protocols from late December; nor had a written wait list yet been found.
Gokal’s attorney said:
“We appreciate today’s outcome and will now transition our efforts toward a wrongful termination suit. As I stated publicly last week, an apology by Harris County Public Health and the Harris County District Attorney’s Office towards Dr. Gokal and his family will not be enough. The agency disparaged this good public servant’s name and took away his employment without cause. More must be done by those responsible to make this right.”
He deserves an apology, and a lot more.