Texas Doctor Fired for Giving Leftover COVID-19 Vaccines to 'Indian-Sounding' Patients Sues County
The physician was fired in January by the Harris County Public Health department and accused of stealing the vaccines. He was cleared of any wrongdoing.
A Houston doctor fired over giving COVID-19 vaccinations that were about to expire to residents in his community and accused of theft has filed a $1 million race discrimination suit against the county.
Dr. Hasan Gokal made national headlines earlier this year after he was terminated and criminally charged with stealing after giving about 10 doses of the Moderna vaccine to patients in his area. He was later cleared of any wrongdoing.
Gokal, who was born in Pakistan, alleges Harris County Public Health fired him for administering the vaccine, which was about to go bad within hours, to people with "Indian-sounding" names.
“It’s very clear that if he had vaccinated people named Anderson, Smith and Jones he would have been called a hero and not have been fired, charged, vilified and brought before a grand jury that thankfully refused to indict him,” said Gokal's attorney Joe Ahmad, in a statement released Tuesday.
Gokal said he was fired after giving injections from an open Moderna vial to at-risk people. "Dr. Gokal tried to save lives without regard to race," the lawsuit said. The health department terminated him for not distributing the vaccine "equitably" and for giving the vaccine to "too many 'Indian-sounding, at-risk patients,'" the complaint alleges.
A spokesman for Harris County Public Health declined comment Wednesday to Inside Edition Digital.
A judge initially dismissed the charges against him in January. In March, the Texas Medical Board dismissed a complaint filed against him by the county and in June, a grand jury determined that no criminal charges were warranted against the physician.
The lawsuit alleges the health department failed to adequately investigate what happened late last year, when the doses were administered. Health officials “never interviewed Dr Gokal, never took his statement, never asked for his side of the story, conducted no internal investigation of the matter, and never sought to get the facts straight,” the lawsuit states.
At the time, the department said Gokal had wrongly given the doses to people he knew. The inoculations were distributed in December of 2020, when vaccine supplies were scarce and appointments difficult to get. The doctor said he had driven around his community dispersing shots to people at risk in a race against the clock before the vaccines went bad.
He gave the last dose to his wife, who has a lung disease, as time was running out, he said.
“The only individual that qualifies as a ‘friend’ or ‘family’ that received the vaccine is his wife, who Dr Gokal did not give the vaccine to until time had nearly run out and with no one else available to receive the last vaccine dose,” the lawsuit said.
Gokal is seeking damages for "a tortured six-month criminal investigation during which time his reputation was tarnished, his confidence was shattered, and he and his family were subjected to emotional distress,” the suit states.
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