Brazil police probe reports of coronavirus vaccine 'shots of air'

An elderly resident receives a vaccine shot in Rio de Janeiro, Feb 13, 2021.
An elderly resident receives a vaccine shot in Rio de Janeiro, Feb 13, 2021.PHOTO: REUTERS

RIO DE JANEIRO (REUTERS) - Police in Rio de Janeiro launched an investigation on Wednesday (Feb 17) into reports that doses of the coronavirus vaccine may have been diverted after images emerged of healthcare workers sticking needles into elderly people without injecting them.

Police appealed to local government and health officials to help understand what happened to the doses, which were intended for high risk groups.

At least three cases have been reported in Rio state of what local media are calling "shots of air," in which health workers administered fake inoculations from empty syringes.

Videos shared on social media show healthcare workers inserting the needle into people's arms with the syringe already fully compressed.

The personnel involved have been dismissed and the elderly people who received the fake shots were later vaccinated, Rio's state nursing council, known as Coren-RJ, said in a note.

If police find that vaccines were diverted, those involved could be prosecuted for embezzlement, which carries a potential sentence of up to 12 years in jail.