A Texas doctor with only six hours to administer expiring doses of a Covid-19 vaccine inoculated 10 people, but the move got him fired and charged with stealing the doses.
The doctor, Hasan Gokal, had scrambled in December by making house calls and directing people to his home outside Houston. Some were acquaintances; others, strangers. A bed-bound nonagenarian. A woman in her 80s with dementia. A mother with a child who uses a ventilator.
After midnight, and with just minutes before the vaccine became unusable, Dr. Gokal gave the last dose to his wife, who has a pulmonary disease that leaves her short of breath.
For his actions, Dr. Gokal was fired from his government job and then charged with stealing 10 vaccine doses worth a total of $135 — a misdemeanor that sent his name and mug shot rocketing around the globe.
“It was my world coming down,” he said in a telephone interview on Friday. “To have everything collapse on you. God, it was the lowest moment in my life.”
The matter is playing out as pandemic-weary Americans scour websites and cross state lines chasing rumors in pursuit of a medicine in short supply.
Late last month, a judge dismissed the charge as groundless, but the local district attorney vowed to present the matter to a grand jury. And while prosecutors portray the doctor as a cold opportunist, his lawyer says he acted responsibly — even heroically.
“Everybody was looking at this guy and saying, ‘I got my mother waiting for a vaccine, my grandfather waiting for a vaccine,’” the lawyer, Paul Doyle, said. “They were thinking, ‘This guy is a villain.’”