Charge dropped against Harris County Public Health doctor accused of stealing COVID-19 vaccine doses

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BySteve Campion KTRK logo
Tuesday, January 26, 2021
Charge dropped for doctor accused of stealing vaccine doses
Records show no probable cause was found in the case of Harris County Public Health worker Dr. Hasan Gokal. But what's next?

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- A grand jury could decide if a Harris County doctor will be charged with stealing nine doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

A judge dismissed a case against Harris County Public Health worker Dr. Hasan Gokal, who is accused of taking a vial from a vaccine site in Humble. Records show no probable cause in Gokal's case.

Gokal worked for the county and the district attorney argued he stole the doses to give to family and friends, but Gokal's attorney said the doses would have been thrown out if he had not intervened.

"It seems that his motives were a bit more mitigating, it wasn't like he was taking this medication to try and sell it," legal expert Steve Shellist said of the case.

The district attorney's office told ABC13 the district attorney has the option to take this case to a grand jury. So far, a final decision has not been made.

If the case does go to a grand jury, Shellist said the judge has additional levels of authorities where a judge can grant other forms of relief that will be beneficial to the doctor.

"Prosecutors are usually a little hesitant to take them back in and get them indicted if a judge doesn't think probable cause exists," Shellist said. "It's not to say they won't do it, obviously, this is a very hot topic, a very important matter. If you think about it, you've got so many people now, complaining that they don't have access to the vaccine, meanwhile, family members of this doctor are getting it ahead of other people."

In light of the news, Gokal's attorney, Paul Doyle, sent the following statement:

"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.

We also sincerely hope this incident doesn't deter other frontline medical personnel from doing everything they can to make sure vaccines are not wasted."

According to previous records, Gokal was accused of stealing the vial that contained nine doses while working at the county vaccination site at Lyndsay Lyons Park on Dec. 29.

A week later, Gokal told a fellow Harris County Public Health employee, who then reported him to supervisors. Mishandling a vaccine can result in a loss of government funding to the county, according to Harris County Public Health officials, who first investigated the matter resulting in Gokal's termination.

Gokal had been one of the faces of Harris County Public Health during the pandemic, featured in videos and on town hall panels.

According to online records, he is in good standing with the Texas Medical Board and has practiced medicine for 21 years, including nine years in Texas.

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