Stealing the COVID vaccine comes with a hefty penalty as criminal charges were handed down for one doctor that was accused of taking a vial of the drug to vaccinate his family and friends.

Dr. Hasan Gokal, a Harris County Public Health doctor in Texas, was charged with theft by a public servant after allegedly stealing a vial of the COVID vaccine that contained nine doses of the drug from a county vaccination site at Lyndsay Lysons Park in Humble, Texas, on Dec. 29, according to Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg.

The Daily Mail reported that Gokal allegedly took the vial because it was damaged and gave the nine doses of the COVID vaccine to people he knew.

Gokal was reported for the alleged theft after he told his colleagues that he took the vaccine. They reported him to his supervisor, who then fired the doctor.

According to Harris County Public Health, who investigated the matter, mishandling the COVID vaccine can result in the loss of government funding to the county.

As a result of the incident, prosecutors were contacted by the Office of Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and the Office of County Attorney Christian Menefee.

In a statement, Ogg said: “He abused his position to place his friends and family in line in front of people who had gone through the lawful process to be there. What he did was illegal and he’ll be held accountable under the law.”

Ogg also said that Gokal disregarded county protocols, which are designed to ensure that the COVID vaccine is not wasted and administered to those that are most vulnerable to contracting the coronavirus as well as frontline workers that are on a waiting list.

Gokal has been charged with a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable with up to a year in jail and a fine of $4,000.

His lawyer, Paul Doyle, told the Daily Mail in a statement that Gokal is a “dedicated public servant” who is looking forward to his day in court. He maintains that Gokal didn’t do anything wrong and didn’t want the damaged vial to go to waste, the Mail said.

Doyle continued by telling the news outlet that “[Gokal] ensured that COVID-19 vaccine dosages that would have otherwise expired went into the arms of people who met the criteria for receiving it. Harris County would have preferred Dr. Gokal let the vaccines go to waste and are attempting to disparage this man’s reputation in the process to support this policy.”

The charges against Gokal comes as reports of people looking to fast-track the COVID vaccine process and skip the line to get vaccinated surface. The New York Post reported last week that New York City real estate brothers Bill and David Mack flew a number of friends to a Florida retirement facility to get inoculated with the COVID vaccine.

The Miami Herald also reported that several large hospital donors have skipped the line and received the COVID vaccine ahead of schedule, which is only being further compounded by a supply shortage that is plaguing the nation.

A pharmacist in India shows a vial of the the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, two million doses of which are set for shipment to Brazil by January 16, 2021 A pharmacist in India shows a vial of the the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, two million doses of which are set for shipment to Brazil by January 16, 2021 Photo: AFP / SAM PANTHAKY