Harris Co. doctor charged with stealing COVID-19 vaccine vial says it would have 'expired'
HARRIS COUNTY, Texas - The laywer for a fired Harris County Doctor who is being charged with stealing a vial of COVID-19 vaccine is firing back.
According to Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg, Dr. Hasan Gokal stole the vial while working at the county vaccination site at Lyndsay Lyons Park in Humble on Dec. 29, 2020.
The vial contained nine doses, according to a release.
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A week later, authorities said Gokal told a fellow Harris County Public Health employee, who then reported him to supervisors.
According to Harris County Public Health, who first investigated the incident, mishandling vaccines can result in a loss of government funding to the county.
Gokal was later fired.
"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," Ogg said. "What he did was illegal and he’ll be held accountable under the law."
The release added that Gokal disregarded county protocols in place to ensure vaccines are not wasted but administered to vulnerable populations and front-line workers on a waiting list.
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According to public records and the Texas Medical Board website, Gokal has been a practicing physician for more than 20 years, nine of those in Texas.
Records also indicate that Gokal does not have any prior offenses on file.
Paul Doyle, the attorney on record for Dr. Hasan Gokal, said, "Dr. Gokal is a dedicated public servant who ensured that COVID-19 vaccine dosages that would have otherwise expired went into the arms of people who met the criteria for receiving it. Harris County would have preferred Dr. Gokal let the vaccines go to waste and are attempting to disparage this man’s reputation in the process to support this policy. We look forward to our day in court to right this wrong."
Gokal is charged with theft by a public servant, which is a Class A misdemeanor, which carries a penalty of up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine.