Brazilian police are investigating allegations that health workers are giving Covid-19 inoculations, amid reports of nurses injecting people with empty syringes.
Cases of what the local media call “vaccination against the wind” have been reported in four states, adding to the problems of the country’s halted and uncoordinated immunization program.
Police announced a criminal investigation Wednesday, amid speculation that the nurses were conspiracy theorists against vaccines or were bagging vaccines to sell on the black market.
“This initially seemed an isolated case, but, although there are still exceptions, it is very worrying that we are seeing this in several places,” said Carla Domingues, an epidemiologist who coordinated Brazil’s national immunization program between 2011 and 2019.
“Either these health professionals were poorly trained or they did it in bad faith. In both cases it is inadmissible, “he added.
Rio state police said that had the vaccines been misappropriated, those involved could be charged with embezzlement, carrying a sentence of up to 12 years in prison.
A video recorded by a family member and published in local media shows a nurse injecting an empty syringe into the arm of a 94-year-old woman at a vaccination site in the city of Petropolis.
After the video went viral, the nurse was fired and the municipality, the regional nursing council and the local police launched investigations.
“We have to wait for the investigation to conclude, but I don’t think it was intentional,” said Aloísio Barbosa Filho, Petrópolis’s Health Secretary.
The nurse had more than 10 years of practice experience and was trained following vaccination protocols, according to the secretary.
“As it was the first days of the vaccination, she may have felt some pressure and was more prone to making mistakes,” said Barbosa Filho. “Anyway, it is unacceptable.”
The secretary said it was the only incident reported among more than 7,000 vaccines administered in Petropolis, which has managed to immunize 2.7% of its population.
Brazil once boasted a world-renowned immunization program for diseases such as measles, polio, smallpox, and tetanus, but has faced a number of setbacks in delivering coronavirus vaccines.
“The [current] The program is totally uncoordinated, ”Domingues said. “The plan must be organized at the federal level, but the Ministry of Health delegated it to the regional authorities.”
A month after Brazil started its nationwide vaccination campaign, state capitals, including Rio de Janeiro and Salvador, had to suspend vaccines on Wednesday after imports of the doses were delayed.
A group representing the mayors of Brazilian municipalities has asked the Minister of Health, Eduardo Pazuello, to resign “urgently.”
“His leadership did not believe in vaccination as a way out of the crisis and did not carry out the necessary planning for the acquisition of vaccines”, the group wrote on Tuesday.
Pazuello, who is also facing an investigation for his management of an acute oxygen shortage in the Amazon city of Manaus, did not comment.
More than 241,000 Brazilians have died from Covid-19, but President Jair Bolsonaro has repeatedly questioned the effectiveness of vaccines against the disease, delayed negotiations to import essential doses and ingredients, and said he will refuse to be vaccinated. .
Fraud and misinformation have added to the problems faced by local authorities. In recent days, thousands of reports have emerged of people jumping the queue to receive vaccinations before priority groups, while disinformation campaigns against vaccines have also gained traction, reaching even remote indigenous peoples in the Amazon.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism