Dr. Hasan Gokal on being fired over vaccines: ‘I did what I believe was expected’

After he was fired and charged with a crime for allegedly breaking protocol by administering soon-to-expire COVID-19 vaccines to eligible people he found, the Texas doctor defends his decision.
8:25 | 02/24/21

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Transcript for Dr. Hasan Gokal on being fired over vaccines: ‘I did what I believe was expected’
Now you have been a doctor for 20 years, and became a medical director for the Harris county covid-19 vaccine rollout. In December at the very end of the day, you found yourself with ten open doses of the vaccine. The staff did not want them or need them. So what did you decide to do with them, and the Harris county D.A. Said you broke protocol. Was it their protocol? What was that? Two questions. Glad to be here. On that night, we were left with ten doses and I couldn't find anybody to give them to. I tried everybody that would be expected who might want to take it. Not happening, and so what I did in the absence of having any other options, I contacted people who I thought would be eligible or would know somebody who would be eligible, and I started calling those. I arranged for ten people to get those too. That was after having discussion with one of the directors of Harris county, to make sure that they knew about this, and then -- and then I went about giving it to them, including at my home and five of them were at my home, and five were people that I went to their homes to give it to that night. Over the next few hours, and just in time right to the six-hour mark when it was to expire. Now doctor, it's common knowledge now that once opened, the modern covid vaccine expires within six hours as you just mentioned. The ten people that you gave them to were all in an eligible tier, and that various criteria from age to health issues. You handed them the appropriate paperwork the very next day and explained what happened, but a week later, you were fired. What was your reaction to being terminated? I didn't think it was real. I just thought there was a misunderstanding. I mean, how -- what kind of sense would it make that if I did everything I thought was the right thing, and explained and was very transparent about it, and from a moral perspective, from the doing the right thing perspective, I did what I think was expected. Plus, this wasn't just my own idea of what the right thing was. This was the guidance from the Texas department of state health services and under any terms, don't waste vaccines. Give them to any eligible people you can. You don't want doses wasted. So from my standpoint, this was, you know, oh, we'll figure this out, clear the -- let me reach out and explain what happened, and we'll be okay. But that's not what happened. Yeah, and you would have had to throw them away, I assume had you not given -- dispensed them into people's arms. Mm-hmm. You were charged with theft by a public servant, but that was thrown out by a judge. However, the district attorney is still planning to bring your case before a grand jury. Do you know what charges you could be facing? My understanding is that it's still the same. It's theft by a public servant. The charge hasn't changed since then. What we know, the information, the story has come out since, you know, it's understandable that they thought it was a theft because of it, but a little bit of questioning or touching base with me or asking or figuring out was all you needed to know that, listen. There is much more to the story than just a doctor who's trying to take advantage of a situation and going to give it to friends and family, et cetera. That's not what happened. Doctor, what you did just seemed like common sense to me. I was actually really shocked when I read this story, and many places across the country, including in New York, there are vaccine shortages and millions of people whoo need them. If the system is going to punish doctors like you who go the extra mile to make sure that these critical vaccines are put to good use, what do I have hope going forward in the future? Because the rollout seems so botched, and I don't understand what you did wrong or why you're being punished. Look. In all fairness, mine was the first. This was the first rollout. This was the first time we're doing this with the public, so we didn't have any precedence of this. I can understand having questions about, oh, how should we deal with this so on and so forth? However, as time has gone on, we have precedence. We know people are learning. They're doing the right thing all over the country, the guys in the snowstorm, other people where these things -- where the freezers have gone bad, and they've needed to get rid of them quickly, so on and so forth. They're starting to do the right thing, and I'm happy for that. My fear for that is a lot of doctors, especially with the comments that I have gotten is that I was going to do this, volunteer, but I'm not so sure I want to get involved in that kind of potential liability situation, and that's kind of sad. That part, I wish docs would stick to why they became docs in the first place, even if it's not the easy way out. So I realize your question is a little bit different, but in reality, I think there's hope. We're learning and we're starting to do better with each day. Dr. Gokal, not only do I think you didn't do anything wrong, I think you went above and beyond the call of duty, because to just not waste those vaccines would have been enough for most people in this country right now, but the fact that you did all that due diligence to get to those people that were eligible is -- I say bravo, but the last of the ten recipients was your wife who has a serious lung condition for which she's been in and out of the hospital, and is on medication. The D.A. Claims you, quote, abused your position is that people could skip the line. How did you and your wife come to that decision in the moment? This was -- this was not an easy decision. I'll be honest, and because I had no intention of giving it to her to begin with, and the ten people that I had slated to get it that night were not family. Not even friends. They were acquaintances and people who knew them, and one was a neighbor who had no idea. I introduced -- that night, introduced myself to them. So when that last person didn't show up that night, close to midnight, with about 20 minutes or so remaining -- a little bit more, remaining on the time clock, I didn't have a choice. I had been up for 20 something hours already working on this, and although I know that my wife was very much eligible, actually probably more than many of the others that got it, the reality was that I wanted to make sure that we did things the right way, and she went through. I had every intention of getting her the vaccine at a time appropriate, through the appropriate channels, but look. I got a vaccine. It's got about a 20-minute half-life, and I have somebody who is highly eligible for it here. Even though it's my own wife. She had been out of the hospital. She had chest surgery. So all said and done, I said, look. We had this discussion, and she looked back at me and said, is this the right thing to do? I said, hon, this is absolutely the right thing to do. We had no intention, but there is no one more eligible right now, and so she took it at that point. Dr. Gokal, we have had many conversations on this show about what life will look like after. When do you envision some sense of normalcy will return, and what does that look like to you? Boy, not soon enough. You know, for me, at the end of the day, look. Any opportunity to make an honest living for myself, and my family and to be able to get back to doing what I enjoy the most which is -- which is taking care of people. You know, even during this whole thing, I had an opportunity that I didn't want to waste, and there is a charity clinic in my neighborhood where I'm donating my time because I have it. I never had it before. So there is a little mini opportunity, and I want to really honestly get back to doing what I always enjoyed doing, which is taking care of people. Right. Well, Dr. Gokal, I want to commend you and say thank you for what you did because it is more important to save the lives of people than throw stuff away when it can -- when it can help, and you do no harm. So hopefully they will get this all straightened out.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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