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Thousands In Germany Thought They Had Their Vaccine. It May Have Been Saline Instead

A medical assistant administers the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in May in Berlin's Friedrichshain district.
Tobias Schwarz
AFP via Getty Images
A medical assistant administers the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in May in Berlin's Friedrichshain district.

A nurse in northern Germany is suspected of having duped thousands of people into receiving a shot of saline rather than a COVID-19 vaccine.

Authorities say that a Red Cross nurse working at a vaccination site in Friesland is believed to have given out the fake shot to residents during March and April, Reuters reported. Around 8,600 people could have received the saline solution instead of the vaccine, Sven Ambrosy, a district administrator of Friesland, said on Facebook.

"I'm totally shocked by the incident," Ambrosy said. "The district of Friesland will do everything possible to ensure that the affected people receive their vaccination protection as soon as possible."

The saline solution is not dangerous, but officials are urging anyone who got vaccinated at the Roffhausen Vaccination Center during that period to get vaccinated again. They are contacting by phone or email those who may have received a fake vaccine, and a dedicated information phone line has also been established, officials wrote on Facebook.

Health officials in Lower Saxony said that the nurse in question had access to the vaccines because she was "responsible for the preparation of vaccines and the preparation of syringes during her working hours in the vaccination center," CNN reported.

It is unclear if there have been any arrests or charges filed related to the case, according to Reuters. The nurse has not been named publicly, and the possible motivation has not been stated; however, the person in question did reportedly have social media posts expressing skepticism about the COVID-19 vaccines.

A similar scandal unfolded in India last month. Thousands paid to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at a "vaccination camp" but instead were given shots of saline solution. Authorities arrested 14 people, alleging they gave around 4,000 people fake or expired vaccines and collected thousands of dollars in the process.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.