Italian police have arrested a nurse in Palermo for allegedly pretending to give COVID-19 vaccines to anti-vaccine protesters so they could benefit from official health certificates to travel and access bars, restaurants and public transport.
Investigators used a hidden camera to film the nurse, a 58-year-old woman working at a major inoculation center in the Sicilian capital.
The video, released on Saturday on Twitter, shows the health worker apparently loading up a dose of COVID-19 vaccine and then emptying the syringe into a tissue before injecting it into the arms of anti-vaccine protesters.
Police said the woman’s own booster dose was fake, and arrested her on charges of forgery and embezzlement.
It was not the first time a nurse has been arrested in Italy for pretending to inject vaccines. Dozens of health workers, including at least three doctors, have been charged or investigated on suspicion of administering fake jabs to people, with some paying up to 400 euros (US$457) each for the service.
An Italian nurse in Ancona in the Marche region on Wednesday last week was arrested for allegedly giving fake vaccines to at least 45 people. The health worker allegedly emptied vaccines into a medical waste bin.
Italian anti-vaccine protesters were willing to pay up to 300 euros for the service to receive the so-called “super green pass” introduced by the Italian government last month, and required to access cinemas, gyms, nightclubs and stadiums, as well as to be served indoors at bars and restaurants, investigators said.
The nurse arrested on Friday in Palermo is the second health worker from the same hospital in the city to end up in prison. Police on Dec. 21 uncovered another alleged scam with dozens of anti-vaccination holdouts, including a police officer, paying a nurse up to 400 euros to give them fake jabs.
The woman, who faces charges of corruption and forgery, pleaded guilty and began to collaborate with authorities by revealing the details of the scam and the names of her accomplices.
The nurse told investigators that she injected fake vaccines because she needed money to support her son at university.
“We have uncovered the dark and fraudulent plots of these diehard, no-vax people who do not hesitate to break the law,” Palermo Police Commissioner Leopoldo Laricchia said in a statement. “This investigation also shows how, unfortunately, there are still unvaccinated health workers who work in hospitals in close contact with patients.”
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