Berlin — A nurse in Germany may have given more than 8,500 people saline solution instead ofvaccine doses at a town's vaccination center earlier this year, according to officials in the country's northern state of Lower Saxony. All those affected will be informed of their newly discovered possible vulnerability to the coronavirus immediately and offered new vaccine shots.
At the end of April, a former Red Cross employee who worked at a vaccination center in the town of Schortens admitted to a colleague that she had filled six syringes with saline instead of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, police said. According to statements by the center's operators, the unidentified nurse said she dropped a vial containing the vaccine while preparing the syringes and she tried to cover it up. The nurse was immediately fired.
Following the incident, authorities conducted antibody tests on more than 100 people who visited the vaccination center that day. They were also invited to receive a follow-up inoculation because it was no longer possible to trace to whom the six syringes had been administered.
During the police investigation, however, there were increasing indications that a much larger group might have been affected. According to the authorities, the case involves vaccinations administered between March 5 and April 20 at specific times.
"It's about a total of 8,557 people who may not have received vaccination protection in whole or in part although they assumed they had," said Sven Ambrosy, who sits on the district council for Friesland, which includes Schortens.
All those affected will be contacted directly and given new vaccination appointments. Antibody tests to check their vaccination status are not diagnostically conclusive after such a long period of time. Officials coordinated with the government's health agency, the Robert Koch Institute, and the country's vaccination authority, the Permanent Vaccination Commission, on the procedure. The new shots are considered safe outside the usual vaccination intervals.
The nurse has remained silent on the allegations.
Meanwhile, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced unvaccinated adults will be forced to pay for coronavirus tests starting October 11 if they wish to participate in public life. That is one of the key agreements reached at Tuesday's summit of the federal government and state premiers in Berlin.
Unvaccinated people will be required to provide proof of a negative test result at public events in regions where the seven-day test-positivity rate is above 35 per 100,000 people. Proof of a negative test will not be required for fully vaccinated people or those who have recovered from COVID-19.
Exceptions will be made for people who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons as well as children under 18. In those cases, they will have tests paid for by the state.
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