Doctor once accused of stealing COVID vaccines suing Harris County Public Health for discrimination

His attorney believes it was all because of the ethnicity of the 10 people the doctor gave the vaccine to.

Shelley Childers Image
Wednesday, September 22, 2021
Doctor once accused of stealing COVID vaccines suing Harris County
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Dr. Hasan Gokal said he was given the green light to administer the vaccines before they expired. But later, he claims officials told him the distribution was "not equitable" because there were too many Indian names in the group.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The Harris County doctor once accused of stealing COVID-19 vaccines at a Harris County vaccination event is now suing the county's health department.

Dr. Hasan Gokal was criminally charged and then investigated by the Texas Medical Board, who ended up clearing him of any wrongdoing. The criminal charges against him were also dropped.

READ ALSO: Grand jury declines indictment against doctor accused of stealing COVID-19 vaccine

Months later, Gokal said he believes he was racially discriminated against.

"If you Google my name, you'll see 'doctor theft,' 'doctor theft,' so on and so forth ... all up and down," said Gokal during an interview with ABC13 on Tuesday.

READ ALSO: Doctor accused of stealing COVID vaccine speaks out after grand jury declines indictment

This all stems from a vaccine event last December. It was the county's first day distributing the Moderna vaccine. The day ended with one open vial containing 10 remaining doses, which were set to expire.

Gokal said he offered the shots to front line workers and police officers on site at the time, but all of them declined the vaccination. He said he told his supervisor he would find others to administer the vaccines to.

Gokal said the supervisor replied, "OK, good."

"During the next six hours, I found nine people to give it to who were acquaintances or acquaintances of acquaintances," said Gokal.

The doctor's legal team said the recipients included an elderly mother with Parkinson's disease, two bedridden women in their late 80s and a mother whose child is on a ventilator.

Gokal's attorney, Joe Ahmad, said as the clock was running out, Gokal vaccinated his own wife, who has pulmonary sarcoidosis, an inflammatory disease of the lungs.

All of the recipients qualified for the shots under the initial 1A and 1B criteria, according to Gokal. People in those groups included first responders and those over 65 or with qualifying conditions.

"That was why it was so difficult," said Gokal. "It would have been much easier to find anyone off the street and give it to them."

Instead of being lauded for his work to save vaccines, he was fired, criminally charged and investigated. He was also threatened with losing his medical license. His attorney believes it was all because of the ethnicity of those 10 recipients.

"Simple, because he gave it to the people he could, who happen to be south Asian," said Ahmad.

On the day he was fired, Gokal claims the Harris County Public Health Human Resources Director told him his distribution of those 10 doses was "not equitable," because there were too many Indian names in the group.

"It all centered around the fact that they felt like it wasn't appropriate to give the vaccine to several south Asian people who were at-risk and needed the vaccine," said Ahmad.

But to this day, Gokal said his reputation is tarnished.

"The damage is done," said Gokal. "That bothers me. That even though it's over, it's very hard to fix all the damage."

WATCH: Doctor once accused of stealing vaccines says name is now tainted

Ahmad said they hope the civil suit will go to jury trial in order to help clear Gokal's name.

"We want it exposed, because unfortunately, the misinformation about Dr. Gokal has spread far and wide and all we want is the truth to be spread half as far," he said.

When ABC13 contacted Harris County Public Health on Tuesday, a representative said they have no comment on the civil suit and the allegation of racial discrimination.

For updates on this report, follow ABC13 reporter Shelley Childers on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.