A nurse in Germany has allegedly injected up to 8,600 people with saline solution instead of a Covid-19 vaccine.
The Red Cross nurse may have given thousands of elderly patients in northern Germany a fake jab in the early Spring, a police investigation found.
Authorities on Tuesday urged thousands of people who received their first jab at a vaccination centre in Friesland – a rural district near the North Sea coast – to get another shot of the Covid-19 vaccine after making the discovery.
Police said the unnamed suspect had aired sceptical views about vaccines in social media posts but that their motive was unclear.
‘I am totally shocked by this episode,’ Sven Ambrosy, a local councillor, said on Facebook as local authorities issued the call to around 8,600 residents who may have been affected.
While saline solution is harmless, most people who got vaccinated in Germany in March and April when the suspected switch took place – are elderly people at high risk of catching the potentially fatal viral disease.
Police investigator Peter Beer, speaking earlier at a news conference covered by German media, said that based on witness statements there was ‘a reasonable suspicion of danger’.
It was not immediately clear whether the suspect had been arrested or charged in the case, which according to broadcaster NDR has been handed to a special unit that investigates politically motivated crimes.
It comes as German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the state would stop paying for Covid-19 tests for unvaccinated residents by October in an effort to encourage more people to get the jab.
Merkel said free testing will end on October 11 because all citizens are now eligible for the vaccine.
Around 55 per cent of Germans are fully vaccinated, but the pace of inoculations has slowed and Merkel has said she wants to see at least 75 per cent of the population jabbed.
Germany had made the tests free for all in March to help make a gradual return to normal life possible after months of lockdown.
From October, unvaccinated residents will have to pay for their own tests but teenagers, children, and people who cannot get the jab for medical reasons will be exempt.
The government will also require people to be either vaccinated, test negative or have a recovery certificate to enter indoor restaurants, participate in religious ceremonies and do indoor sport.