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Utah pharmacist surrenders license after fraudulently distributing COVID-19 vaccine cards

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

A Utah pharmacist surrendered his license in a disciplinary hearing with the Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing after he allegedly prepared and distributed COVID-19 vaccination cards without administering the vaccine.

A stipulation and surrender order filed with the division on Monday states that Herriman pharmacist Bruce F. Whatcott admitted to meeting with a patient in June whose employer requested them to be vaccinated since their position required travel.

Whatcott also admitted that he allowed the pharmacy technician to counsel a patient on unconfirmed adverse reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine. The technician advised the "reluctant" patient that the vaccine could cause infertility, which Whatcott failed to correct, according to the order.

The order states that following the technician's counseling, Whatcott spoke with the patient off-camera. Whatcott is then seen on camera leaving the room and entering the pharmacy where he retrieves a Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine vial from the fridge. He then obtained the vial's number and prepared a COVID-19 vaccination card with that number.

Whatcott did not prepare a syringe or administer the vaccine but gave the patient the completed vaccination card. The disciplinary order stated that Whatcott admitted to his employer he had given completed COVID-19 vaccination cards to a "handful of others" when he felt that the patient was "apprehensive" to get the vaccine.

Whatcott defended his actions saying he was giving a reluctant patient "a choice." The disciplinary order stated that his actions were harmful to both the patient and others, putting the patient and others around the patient at risk for contracting COVID-19.

The order called Whatcott's actions a misrepresentation and an unauthorized use of an official government agency's seal. The vaccination cards contain the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention seal making it a government form and misuse of it is a violation of Utah law.

Whatcott signed the disciplinary order characterizing his actions as "unprofessional" and "unlawful," according to the division's order. Whatcott, who has been a licensed pharmacist in Utah since 1987, surrendered his license and agreed to pay a $2,000 fine as part of his disciplinary action.

Whatcott's actions aren't the first reported fraud in relation to COVID-19. In April, the Utah Department of Health received reports of people reproducing and presenting fraudulent mask exemption cards with Utah's state seal to businesses and schools.