Police in St. Paul and Oakdale are investigating two separate thefts of COVID-19 vaccine from vaccination sites, both of which appear to have been brazenly filmed and posted online by the person responsible.
The two videos - posted to an individual user's Facebook page last week - show a man filming himself, feigning interest in receiving a vaccination at two locations: a vaccination site operated by Allina Health in Oakdale, and a CVS in St. Paul.
In both videos, once a vaccine vial is handed to the man, he removes his mask, begins calmly walking away despite pleas from workers, and discusses his intent to have the contents – which he says contain "deadly poison" – tested by a lab.
On the recordings, he also openly affiliates himself with a loosely organized anti-government conspiracy group of "investigators." At no point in either video does he appear to threaten anyone or become physical with them.
The video posts, which have since been removed or hidden, spread quickly across the web despite the repeated false claims in them.
More than 152 million Americans have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, as of May 11, 2021. While some relatively minor, short-lived side effects are commonplace, the vaccine itself has proven to be both safe and effective.
The thefts are now being investigated by both St. Paul police and the Oakdale Police Department, officials with both departments confirmed to Bring Me The News. The man has not been arrested as of Tuesday afternoon, nor has he been charged or cited in connection with the case. (While he was arrested May 6 in Blaine, it was not for any theft-related offense, the Anoka County Sheriff's Office tweeted in response to "stories regarding COVID-19 vaccine thefts." He has since been released.)
Oakdale Police Captain Nick Newton told Bring Me The News he expects the investigation to be complete by early next week. One small wrinkle, he said, is determining the value of the vaccine vials. The severity of a theft citation is generally tied to the dollar value of the item stolen - and the COVID vaccine isn't like "a pair of work boots where there's a price tag," he said.
Investigators are working with Allina Health to sort that out, Newton said.
Theft 1: Allina Health site in Oakdale
The first incident occurred Tuesday, May 4, around 3:30 p.m. at the Allina Health vaccination site next to the clinic on 7400 33rd St. N. in Oakdale, Newton told Bring Me The News. The site has been offering doses of the Pfizer vaccine, according to Allina Health's website.
In the associated video (which investigators have, Newton said), the man is given a vial of the vaccine and asks, "This is my vaccine?" He then lifts his camera, removes his face mask, and loudly announces to the rest of the people in the area: "Hey guys. Do not take this vaccine. This is going to kill you, I promise. This is poisonous."
More than once he clarifies he is holding "my vaccine," with some workers telling him it actually contains multiple doses. He then walks out to his car, noting he needs to make a "getaway" because they are calling the cops, and plans to send the vial to a lab for testing.
Allina Health told BMTN that the safety of patients and employees is its "top priority."
"Our Security Team is committed to providing a safe and secure environment at all of our facilities and we are evaluating the processes and procedures at our vaccine clinics as part of our commitment to safety," its statement continued.
Theft 2: CVS in St. Paul
The second theft came at around 11:35 a.m. on Wednesday, May 5, at the CVS on 30 Fairview Ave. S. in St. Paul. A spokesperson for the city's police department told Bring Me The News "a man came in to have a COVID-19 shot and took one vial and left the store." He was gone by the time officers arrived.
The video posted to Facebook shows the same man asking a worker if he can see the vaccine vial in order to read the label. Once in his hand, he takes the vial out of the box, lifts his phone, removes his mask, and begins calmly walking out of the store with it, talking about "poison."
"Praise the Lord guys, I got a full vial this time," he says, noting it's the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and saying they're "definitely calling the cops."
The St. Paul Police Department spokesperson could not confirm whether investigators were in possession of the video, but noted the May 5 incident was the only reported theft of a vaccine from a St. Paul CVS.
A CVS spokesperson said it is aware of the incident at a store in St. Paul and is cooperating with the police department's investigation. They declined to comment any further.