A nurse in Western Australia has been charged with fraud, accused of pretending to administer a COVID vaccine at a private clinic. The Guardian notes it's the first recorded instance of someone allegedly faking such a vaccination. ABC Australia reports that 51-year-old Christina Hartmann Benz had apparently received a governmental OK to administer the vaccine to people she knew at a private medical center in the Perth suburb of Victoria Park, and it seems a bunch of family and friends took her up on it over the weekend.
But, per the Sydney Herald, "suspicions were raised" when dozens of people started showing up at the clinic, asking for Benz by name, then disappearing behind closed doors with her to receive the vaccine, a police prosecutor told Perth Magistrates Court. He says that when a man and his 15-year-old son showed up and asked to see Benz, clinic owner Sean Stevens decided to stay with her as she administered the vaccine, and that Benz tried to obstruct his view while she was giving the shot to the 15-year-old.
It's alleged that she did actually jab the teen, but that she didn't depress the syringe to inject the liquid into his arm. Police say she threw out the syringe with the vaccine still in it, claiming a successful vaccination in clinic records, as well as marking down that someone else in the clinic had administered it. There's no word yet on motive, but police say Benz had made social media posts that noted her skepticism about the vaccine, in a state that's the furthest behind any other in vaccination rates: The national average for those who've gotten both doses is just over 80%, while in Perth it hovers around 66%.
Benz was arrested and charged with gains benefit by fraud. Benz is out on bail, but for now she's not allowed to administer COVID vaccines or work as a registered nurse in any capacity. She's also not allowed to have contact with co-workers or with those she treated at the clinic—except for her husband and parents, who were reportedly among her patients. As for anyone else who may be thinking of pulling a similar stunt, WA Health Minister Roger Cook has some dissuading words. "We're on the lookout for any of this sort of behavior, and if it's going on it's just despicable and has to stop," he says, per ABC. (Read more coronavirus vaccine stories.)