Scores of people in India who traveled to vaccination camps received injections of salt water instead of vaccine that would protect them against the coronavirus, authorities say. About a dozen private sites were set up in the city of Mumbai in May and June, the New York Times reports, that charged $10 to $17 per dose. The 14 people arrested include doctors and other medical personnel. "They were using saline water and injecting it," a police official said, per CNN. "Every fake vaccination camp that they held, they were doing this." A hospital provided vaccination certificates, syringes, and vials, he said. The charges against the suspects include criminal conspiracy and forgery. A lawyer who filed a public interest lawsuit in the case called the situation "heartbreaking."
The camps drew more than 2,600 people, who thought they were getting the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which is labeled Covishield in India. The investigation began after some of the victims became suspicious: Their doses weren't appearing on a government website where they should have, hospitals listed on their vaccination certificates were not the hospitals organizers said were involved, and they had to pay cash. "There are doubts about whether we were actually given Covishield or was it just glucose or expired/waste vaccines," one recipient posted on Twitter. India—which faces suspicion about the accuracy of its COVID numbers—has stepped up its vaccination efforts, giving a record 8 million shots in one day last month; Johns Hopkins data show only about 4.5% of the population is fully vaccinated. "A well-organized syndicate is involved in these fake vaccinations. We have to be on guard from now on," said another police official, per DW. (Read more coronavirus vaccine stories.)