singer191_Serhii Hudak UkrinformBarcroft Media via Getty Images_covid vaccine Serhii Hudak/Ukrinform/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

When Vaccination Is a “Crime”

Hasan Gokal, the medical director of the Harris County, Texas COVID-19 response team, refused to let a vial of vaccine expire and sought out eligible recipients before the doses would have to be discarded. For his sound ethical reasoning, he was fired and faces criminal prosecution.

MELBOURNE – On December 29 last year, Hasan Gokal, the medical director of the COVID-19 response team in Harris County, Texas (which includes Houston, the fourth-largest city in the United States by population), was supervising the administration of the Moderna vaccine, mostly to emergency workers. The vaccine comes in vials containing eleven doses. A vial, once opened, expires in six hours and unused vaccine must then be thrown away.

On that December day, a patient arrived just before closing time, so a nurse had to open a new vial, leaving Gokal with ten doses. He offered them to the health-care workers and to two police officers still on the site, but they had either been vaccinated, or declined. He called a colleague whose parents and in-laws were eligible – anyone over 65 or with a medical condition that increases the risk from the coronavirus could then be vaccinated – but they weren’t available.

Gokal started calling people from his phone’s contacts to ask if they knew anyone eligible who wanted to be vaccinated and could come to his home that evening. When he arrived home, two people were waiting there, and he vaccinated them. Then he drove to homes where he knew there were eligible people, and vaccinated five more.