Officials in Germany say more than 8,000 people will need another shot of the COVID-19 vaccine as they suspect a nurse may have instead injected them with benign saline solution.
According to CBS News, Reuters and the BBC, the incident occurred this spring in Friesland, a state in the northern part of the country.
Police said a Red Cross employee, whose identity has not been released, admitted to a colleague that she had dropped a vial of the Pfizer vaccine and later filled six syringes with saline so she wouldn't get caught. The nurse was immediately fired, and more than 100 people who visited the clinic that day were invited back to receive a new shot.
However, during a subsequent police investigation, authorities discovered that the nurse might have been administering saline injections for several weeks.
The motive in the case remains unclear. Reuters reports that police investigators noted the nurse had posted her skepticism about vaccines on social media. However, the BBC reports that the nurse's lawyers have denied the widespread nature of the saline injections and said she did not have a political motive for her actions.
Sven Ambrosy, a member of the local district council, told media outlets that more than 8,500 people might have been injected with saline between March 5 and April 20.
While a saline injection is harmless, Reuters reports that the injections occurred early on in Germany's vaccination program. At the time, people at high risk for disease, including the elderly, were the only ones approved for vaccination.
According to CBS News, all those who may have been affected will be contacted directly and given appointments for another vaccine dose.