German Nurse Suspected of Giving Saline Instead of COVID Vaccine

Carolyn Crist

August 12, 2021

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

A nurse in Germany is suspected of giving saline solution rather than a COVID-19 vaccine to more than 8,500 people at a vaccination center earlier this year, according to CBS News.

Those who may be affected are being informed about their possible vulnerability to the coronavirus and will be offered COVID-19 shots.

"I'm totally shocked by the incident," Sven Ambrosy, a district administrator of Friesland, wrote in a Facebook post on Tuesday.

"The district of Friesland will do everything possible to ensure that the affected people receive their vaccination protection as soon as possible," he said.

In late April, a former Red Cross employee who worked at the Roffhausen Vaccination Center in Friesland, a district in Germany's northern state of Lower Saxony, told a colleague that she filled six syringes with saline instead of the Pfizer vaccine, according to police reports. The nurse said she dropped a vial containing the vaccine while preparing syringes and tried to cover it up.

The nurse was immediately fired, and local authorities conducted antibody tests on more than 100 people who visited the vaccination center on April 21. Since it was impossible to trace who received the saline shots from the six syringes, everyone who visited the center that day was also invited to receive a follow-up shot.

During a police investigation, however, authorities found additional indications that more people were affected. The case now involves 8,557 vaccinations given between March 5 and April 20 at specific times.

Now authorities are contacting those who were affected by phone or email to schedule new vaccination appointments. They've established a dedicated information phone line as well, according to NPR.

Saline solution is harmless, but most people who received shots in Germany during that time were older adults who faced high risks of severe COVID-19, according to Reuters.

The nurse has remained silent about the allegations of her administering saline rather than a vaccine to thousands of people, CBS News reported. It's unclear whether there have been any arrests or charges related to the case, Reuters reported.

The nurse hasn't been named publicly, and the motive hasn't been shared, NPR reported, though the nurse had expressed skepticism about COVID-19 vaccines in social media posts.

Sources

CBS News: "Nurse suspected of giving thousands in Germany saline solution instead of COVID-19 vaccine."

Police Inspectorate Wilhelmshaven/Friesland: "Joint press release."

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

Reuters: "Suspected saline switch sparks vaccine stir in Germany."

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