(NEXSTAR) — A Texas doctor had just six hours to administer 10 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine was set to expire and had to be used before it went to waste.
So Dr. Hasan Gokal went to work finding people to give the vaccine out of his Houston home, including strangers and acquaintances. According to the New York Times, he gave the vaccine to two women — one in her 80s and one in her 90s, both with underlying health issues — a woman with a child who uses a ventilator and his wife, who has a pulmonary disease.
Gokal was fired for his actions, and the Harris County District Attorney’s office charged him with stealing the vaccine, worth $135.
“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,” Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said in a statement. “What he did was illegal, and he’ll be held accountable under the law.”
The charges were later dropped as groundless, but Gokal remains without work.
“It was my world coming down,” Gokal told the Times. “To have everything collapse on you. God, it was the lowest moment in my life.”
Gokal’s lawyer has portrayed the fired doctor as a good Samaritan who did everything he could to ensure the vaccine doses didn’t go to waste under the time constraints.
“We appreciate today’s outcome and will now transition our efforts toward a wrongful termination suit,” his lawyer, Paul Doyle, said in a statement to ABC7 after the case was dismissed. “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.”
Gokal was charged in January with theft by a public servant. If he had been convicted, Gokal faced up to one year in jail and a $4,000 fine.
Gokal reportedly took the vial while working at a county vaccination site in Humble, Texas, on Dec. 29. A week later, he allegedly talked about it to a fellow Harris County Public Health employee, who reported him to supervisors.
Gokal now volunteers at a nonprofit clinic, the Times reported, as he seeks new employment.