A fraudulent scheme administered saline water to around 2,500 people who thought they were getting vaccinated against COVID-19 in India, it was reported Monday.
The scammers rolled out at least 12 fake vaccination drives in the state of Maharashtra, where they charged fees ranging from $10 to $17 for the shots of salt water from those willing to get a jab of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, according to The New York Times (NYT).
Thousands in India thought they were getting the COVID vaccine. They were injected with salt water instead by scammers https://t.co/Q5vhga0rsi
— philip lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) July 5, 2021
“They were using saline water and injecting it. Every fake vaccination camp that they held, they were doing this,” Vishal Thakur, a senior official of the Mumbai police department, said, according to CNN.
“We have arrested doctors. They were using a hospital which was producing the fake certificates, vials, syringes,” the official said. (RELATED: ‘I Would Rather Die’: Villagers Hide From Health Care Workers, Reject Vaccination In Rural India)
The scammers allegedly operated in the period between late May and early June, until authorities launched an investigation into the fake vaccination drives after receiving a number of complaints, Thakur added.
Fourteen people have been arrested on charges of cheating, criminal conspiracy and attempts at culpable homicide, local police said. Authorities estimated the scheme generated up to $28,000.
“About the vaccination of the victims of the scam … if it is found that they require the vaccine, we will contact Centre to arrange for both their doses,” Maharashtra health minister Rajesh Tope said, India Today reported.
As of Monday, India had fully vaccinated nearly 63 million of its residents, which accounts for only 4.6% of the country’s population, data by Johns Hopkins University indicated.