Memphis doctor accused of stealing vaccines from Pipkin site identified

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The medical doctor accused of stealing COVID-19 vaccines and giving them to friends and family during the early months of the coronavirus pandemic has been identified.

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According to court records, Claude Varner Jr. volunteered to administer vaccines at the Pipkin Building in Memphis between Jan. 16 and Feb. 10, 2021. In all, he was accused of stealing five doses of the vaccine, giving two to his wife, two to a friend and one to his daughter-in-law who was not eligible for the vaccine at the time.

The Tennessee Department of Health reprimanded Varner’s medical license and ordered him to complete a medical ethics course and pay $500 along with the cost of the trial. The state action was also reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank.

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Varner’s actions led the Tennessee Department of Health to contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation in February. State officials said one of the thefts happened on Feb. 3 with the state being notified on Feb. 25, after the state mentioned the possibility of a federal investigation into Shelby County’s handling of the vaccines.

After months of investigation, the state of Tennessee identified Varner, based in Memphis, as a suspect. They say Dr. Varner admitted to several violations.

“On one occasion, the respondent unlawfully removed three doses of the COVID vaccine from the Pipkin Building vaccine pod in Memphis. On another occasion he removed two additional doses,” said the medical board.

WREG tried to speak with Dr. Varner, but he lives in a gated community, and security said he was not interested in telling his side of the story.

We asked the Shelby County Health Department about Dr. Varner’s conduct, but they declined to comment.

At the time, health officials confirmed the volunteer was a medical professional and was no longer working at the site as of Feb. 26.

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