Texas doctor fired for using leftover Covid-19 vaccine doses sues county for discrimination

A Texas public health doctor fired earlier this year for using leftover doses of Covid-19 vaccine on eligible individuals is suing Harris County for $1 million, saying he was fired for giving “the vaccine to too many individuals with ‘Indian’ sounding names.”

Dr. Hasan Gokal was charged with theft by a public servant but a Harris County grand jury declined to indict him, according to Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg’s office.

Gokal was a medical advisor for Harris County Public Health (HCPH) and was involved with the county’s first distribution of the vaccine on December 29, 2020, according to the lawsuit filed in Harris County Tuesday.

The vaccination distribution site Gokal was supervising shut down with 10 doses of Covid-19 vaccine left in an already-opened vial. Gokal first asked people at the site if they wanted to be vaccinated, according to the lawsuit, but most had already received the vaccine.

Gokal then called a superior at HCPH and informed them he was going to find people to give the vaccine to, and the superior affirmed his decision, the lawsuit said.

The doctor then contacted as many people as he could to find eligible recipients for the leftover doses, the lawsuit said.

“I did what any physician would do, which is take resources meant for patients and people and give it to them instead of throwing them away. And that’s why it was so infuriating,” Gokal said, according to a statement from his attorney’s office.

His attorney at the time, Paul Doyle, said Gokal vaccinated several eligible individuals, including his wife, who had an underlying medical condition, after another person who was going to receive the vaccine suddenly said he was unavailable, CNN reported earlier this year.

Gokal was told by HCPH Human Resources that he “did not ‘equitably’ distribute the vaccine and that Dr. Gokal gave the vaccine to too many individuals with ‘Indian’ sounding names,” the lawsuit says.

HCPH also told Gokal he “should have instead thrown the vaccines away,” according to the lawsuit.

“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,” Gokal’s attorney Joe Ahmad said in the statement.

HCPH “violated” Gokal’s rights “by discharging and otherwise discriminating against him on the basis of his South Asian race and Pakistani national origin,” the lawsuit states.

“Gokal has not only suffered lost wages and back and front pay, but other pecuniary losses, emotional pain, suffering, mental anguish and loss of enjoyment of life,” the lawsuit says.

CNN has contacted the Harris County Attorney’s Office for comment but did not hear back. Harris County Public Health said they are not commenting on the lawsuit.

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