Police in Uganda said Thursday they had arrested two nurses and were still searching for a man who posed as a “phony doctor” to help the nurses sell and administer fake Chinese coronavirus vaccines to at least 812 people in the country in recent days.
“He is still on the run but we’re hunting for him. We have arrested two nurses whom he was employing,” Dr. Warren Naamara, the head of a public health monitoring unit within the Ugandan presidential office, told Reuters on July 1.
The fake doctor convinced several companies in Uganda to pay for their employees to receive Chinese coronavirus vaccines between May 15 and June 17, Uganda’s Daily Monitor reported June 30.
Naamara told Reuters on July 1 that the man charged people “between 100,000-200,000 Ugandan shillings ($28-$56) per shot.”
“This was a clear scam, this fellow was looking for money, just a common criminal … we suspect he was injecting people with water because it’s colourless[sic], odourless[sic], and not dangerous,” Naamara said.
Ugandan security officials raided Kiswa Health Centre, an official Ugandan government vaccine center, in the Ugandan capital of Kampala on June 17 “and found that the nurses there were charging people between Shs100,00 and Shs200,000 [$28-$56] for each dose to vaccinate against Covid-19 [Chinese coronavirus],” the Daily Monitor reported June 30. The clinic’s vaccine fee served as a red flag for government officials as Uganda’s health ministry does not currently charge people for Chinese coronavirus vaccinations.
During the raid on the vaccine center, “investigators found vials whose seals had been tampered with, and had bogus vaccine labeling and false shipping information,” Naamara told Reuters on July 1.
“Documents seized in a raid of the premises used by the suspects showed at least 812 people had been vaccinated but Naamara said the number of victims could be more,” the news agency noted.
Naamara told the Daily Monitor on June 30 that his office “contacted [Uganda’s] National Medical Stores to prove the authenticity of the suspected drugs [fake vaccines]” and “they confirmed that the batch was not imported in the country” through official Ugandan government channels.
The two nurses arrested by Ugandan police this week were found in possession of fake identification tags attributed to the Kampala Capital City Authority [KCCA], according to the Daily Monitor. The newspaper said it “contacted KCCA” to ask about the ID tags and the municipal body “denied them [the nurses] being their officials.”
Uganda’s Chinese coronavirus caseload has surged in recent weeks. The East African country launched a Chinese coronavirus vaccine drive in March but has struggled to reach a significant number of people due to an insufficient vaccine supply. Uganda relies on Chinese coronavirus vaccines donated through the U.N.’s COVAX scheme, which is designed to provide poorer nations with the shots.
“Ugandans have at times been forced to queue in long lines, some times for a whole day, hoping to be vaccinated,” Reuters reported July 1.