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Wisconsin pharmacist arrested for sabotaging COVID-19 vaccines

Commentary by staff |
January 2, 2021
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Grafton, WI – Near the beginning of the global COVID-19 pandemic, Grafton - a small rural town just outside the Milwaukee metropolitan area - entered the headlines when the Wisconsin National Guard sent medics to a senior care facility experiencing an outbreak and staff shortages. Since then, thousands of Wisconsinites have died from COVID-19.

Grafton is back in the news this week, and not for a good reason. On December 31, the Grafton police arrested a pharmacist who confessed to tampering with 570 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at the Aurora Hospital there. The person is being held at the Ozaukee County Jail and their identity is being withheld pending charges. The pharmacist was suspended and, later, fired by Advocate-Aurora Healthcare.

Initially the spoiled vials of the vaccine were believed to have been accidentally left out, but the former pharmacist later confessed to intentionally spoiling the vaccines, hoping that the spoiled doses would be administered to the public. The vials spoiled by the pharmacist in Grafton were intended for healthcare workers at the hospital in Grafton and dozens of people, maybe more, could die as a result. In the past month over 1000 people have died from COVID-19 in Wisconsin, and the Moderna vaccine is already in short supply.

The Moderna product is incredibly important to Wisconsin’s vaccination program beyond places like Milwaukee and Madison, as it does not require being stored at extremely low temperatures like the Pfizer version. As a result, it can be more easily distributed to remote and rural communities where extremely cold storage is not available.

Incidents like this do not happen in a vacuum. Reactionary forces around the world have pushed COVID-19 denial theories. In Wisconsin, industry groups such as the Tavern League and the Wisconsin Restaurant Association, successfully sued to end the state’s “Safer At Home” order, which had successfully been slowing the spread of COVID-19.

While the complete motivations of the former pharmacist are not known, the reactionary opposition to public health measures and the COVID-19 vaccine is killing working people, and the right-wing political machine is churning out propaganda that encourages more and more of this antisocial behavior.

In countries where private profit does not control people’s healthcare and there is a better sense of collective mindedness, it is a very different picture. Take socialist China, for example. In order to make safe-at-home orders effective, the entire country has mobilized to contain the virus. Neighborhood committees distribute food where safe-at-home orders are in place. China is on track to manufacture 600 million vaccine doses by the end of 2020. Most doses will be exported to other countries, as China has been able to effectively contain the spread of the virus through effective mass mobilization, people-centered policies, and proper public education.

The approach in China and other socialist countries offers a stark contrast to the unmitigated disasters in capitalist countries like the U.S., including the widespread prevalence of dangerous conspiracy theories and antisocial behaviors. The COVID-19 pandemic has only further served to demonstrate the necessity for revolution and socialism in the U.S. and across the capitalist world as the only path to freedom for working and oppressed people.

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