HOUSTON - A grand jury has declined to formally charge Dr. Hasan Gokal, a Harris County doctor accused of stealing a vial of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine and giving them to loved ones, the DA's office confirmed Wednesday.
Dr. Gokal worked for the Harris County Public Health System until prosecutors allege in late December, he stole a vial containing nine doses from a vaccination site in Humble. A week later, authorities said Gokal told a fellow Harris County Public Health employee, who then reported him to supervisors and led to him getting fired.
"What a relief after six months of this uncertainty. All the threats that hung over me is finally over. This was the last step. The fact that it’s over, let’s me figure out what I want to do with my life going forward," said Dr. Gokal while speaking with FOX 26.
Dr. Gokal said the charges came as a surprise and he worries his name may be tainted forever.
"I had no idea. I was completely blindsided. And this news went throughout the world. Even this may not necessarily get to those people that only know me as the guy who stole the vaccine," Dr. Gokal said.
Gokal recently started working again, picking up part-time shifts at Houston Methodist and Memorial Hermann’s emergency room, but says, it’s been hard to focus.
"Simply because you’ve got to be on your A game in the ER. If there’s so much going on, if you’re overwhelmed, you’ve got other things on your mind, then it’s not fair to my patients," Dr. Gokal said.
Dr. Gokal has maintained his innocence from day one, saying his priority was always to save lives and therefore, not waste any vaccine.
As he and his family continue to heal, Dr. Gokal wonders if this would’ve happened to any other doctor.
"I tend to believe it was personal because they knew exactly what I was doing. Our fears, our worries, our anxieties were very different than they are today. Back then, wasting 10 doses was a horrible act, and today, at the end of the day, wasting doses because they can’t find people and they got several more vials in there, it’s just common place. So, we’re living in a little bit of a different world already," Dr. Gokal said.
Harris Co. DA Kim Ogg claimed Gokal took the doses to give to family and friends. However, Dr. Gokal's attorney, Paul Doyle says the vials were going to go to waste, which is why he gave them to loved ones.
"The vaccines have a pretty good shelf life, but if those vials are punctured you have six hours to administer the vaccines," noted Doyle in late January.
Days later, Dr. Gokal had all charges dropped after court records showed there was no probable cause. Still, Dr. Gokal told FOX 26 in late February he stood by his decision despite his medical license being under investigation and his reputation on the line.
Dr. Gokal's attorney, Paul Doyle released the following statement saying while they appreciate the outcome, an apology is "not enough" to make up for the hardship he and his family have suffered.
"We appreciate the Grand Jury finally ending the prolonged, unwarranted attempt by District Attorney Kim Ogg and her office to disparage Dr. Gokal’s good name.
"We fully expected this outcome. It follows a criminal court judge’s dismissal of the original charge in January, the Texas Medical Board’s affirmation of Dr. Gokal’s actions in March, and the hundreds of medical professionals and concerns citizens who wrote letters, sent emails, and made phone calls over the past five months in strong support Dr. Gokal’s heroic efforts.
"No doctor should ever feel forced to choose between saving lives and keeping their job. After all that Dr. Gokal and his family endured, an apology by the Harris County Public Health and the Harris County District Attorney’s office is not enough."