Three arrested in Sicily for anti-vax COVID-19 jab scam

PALERMO, Italy, Dec 21 (Reuters) - Anti-vaccination holdouts in Sicily paid a nurse to give them fake COVID-19 jabs in order to obtain a health certificate that is mandatory for some professions, police said on Tuesday.

Three people, including the nurse and a local leader of the movement known in Italy as 'No-Vax,' have been arrested and face charges of corruption and forgery.

Police used a hidden camera to film the nurse at a major inoculation centre emptying the vaccine syringe into a tissue before briefly putting the needle into the arm of the recipient.

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Around a dozen health passes were obtained in this fashion, including by a policeman. Local media reported that people paid up to 400 euros ($450) each for the service.

"We have uncovered the dark and fraudulent plots of these die-hard, No-Vax people who do not hesitate to break the law," Palermo Police Commissioner Leopoldo Laricchia said in a statement.

In an effort to curb COVID-19 infections, the government has made vaccinations mandatory for health care workers, teachers, law enforcement officers and the military.

Italy further tightened curbs on people who are still not vaccinated on Dec. 6, limiting their access to an array of places and services, including indoor seating at bars and restaurants, museums, cinemas, clubs and sporting events. read more

Some 81% of all Italians have received either one or two jabs - one of the highest rates in Europe - while 26% of the population has had a booster jab.

As pressure has mounted to get vaccinated, so have reports of people trying to dupe the system.

Earlier this month, a dentist turned up at a vaccination centre in northern Italy wearing a fake silicone arm, hoping to fool a nurse into giving him a jab in order to obtain a COVID-19 health certificate. read more ($1 = 0.8857 euros)

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Reporting by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel

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