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Going out on a limb: Italian’s extreme length to escape COVID-19 vaccination

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A 50-year-old man tried to pass off a silicone arm as his own at a COVID-19 vaccination clinic in northern Italy, in an attempt to get a vaccine certificate without actually getting inoculated.

The deception was spotted by a nurse, Filippa Bua, as she was about to administer the vaccine in Biella, Piedmont on Thursday.

Ms Bua told CNN she noticed something odd about the arm.

“The colour of the skin was anomalous, much lighter compared to the hands or the face of the patient,” she said.

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After inspecting the area, she realised that the arm was fake, made of silicone.

“I first felt sorry for the man, thinking that he had a prosthesis and wondering if I had somehow forced him to give me the wrong arm,” Ms Bua said.

“But then he admitted he was wearing the fake arm on purpose to avoid getting the vaccine!”

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File image of a COVID vaccination hub in Rome.
File image of a COVID vaccination hub in Rome. Credit: Cecilia Fabiano/AP

The revelation prompted a range of emotions for Ms Bua, who said she has been a nurse since 1987 and has administered thousands of jabs.

“At the very beginning I was surprised, then I was angry, I felt professionally offended, he showed no respect for our intelligence and our profession,” she said.

“I would never expect such a thing in my life.”

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A man holds his arm after being vaccinated in Rome. File image
A man holds his arm after being vaccinated in Rome. File image Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP

The Piedmont regional government condemned the man’s attempt to cheat the system.

“The case could be classified as ‘ridiculous,’ except that we are talking about a gesture of enormous gravity, unacceptable for the sacrifice that the whole community is paying for the pandemic,” a joint statement from the Piedmont region’s President and health councilor said.

In a video message, the President of the Piedmont regional government, Alberto Cirio, went further, saying the incident was “an offence to the region’s health system, that is among the first in Italy for vaccination capacity and for booster doses.”

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Vaccine mandate

On November 30, Cirio tweeted a map from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control in which Piedmont appears among the few areas in Europe marked in green, meaning the COVID-19 infection rate is below one per cent.

The Biella health department has filed a complaint with the local prosecutor’s office.

The Italian government last month signed a decree making a COVID-19 “super green pass” mandatory in bars, restaurants, theatres and other indoor entertainment venues.

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Under the new measure, only those with full vaccination or proof of recovery from coronavirus are allowed entrance to such venues.

A nurse puts a used syringe into a box at an Italian Red Cross COVID-19 vaccination hub in Rome. File image
A nurse puts a used syringe into a box at an Italian Red Cross COVID-19 vaccination hub in Rome. File image Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP

The original “green pass,” in force for indoor venues and long-distance trains since September 1, allows people to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test within the previous 48 hours, rather than full vaccination or proof of recovery, in order to access leisure venues.

The green pass still applies in work spaces and has been extended to local public transportation.

Protests were held in a number of Italian cities in mid-October, when the requirement for all workers in the country to show the government-issued green pass came into force.

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