Dr Gokal expressed his relief during a phone call on Wednesday afternoon. “For the first time in six months, I’m going to be able to go to bed tonight and not wake up in the middle thinking about this,” he said.
His lawyer, Paul Doyle, said: “What a colossal waste of time.”
In late December, Dr Gokal, 48, a seasoned emergency physician then working for the Harris County Public Health Department, hosted a vaccination event in the Houston suburb of Humble. Just as the event was about to end for the night, an eligible person showed up. A nurse punctured a new vial to administer the vaccine, which activated the six-hour deadline for her remaining 10 doses.
Dr Gokal later said he was determined to respect his understanding that no dose of the precious vaccine should be wasted. Colleagues present at the event refused or had already been vaccinated. So, as he drove home to a nearby county, he called acquaintances to ask if they knew any elderly people needed vaccinations.
In a few frantic hours, he had vaccinated various people in need, most of them elderly or in fragile health, and whom he did not know. As midnight approached, he had one last dose and no one to vaccinate, so he presented the situation to his wife, whose pulmonary sarcoidosis made her eligible – but she was hesitant.
“It makes perfect sense,” he told her later. “We don’t want wasted doses, period.”
The next morning, Dr Gokal submitted the documentation for the 10 people he had vaccinated with this last vial. Several days later, he was fired from his post in the county; he said he was told he should have returned the doses to the office, which was then closed, or thrown them away.