At least 800 people in Uganda were given fake coronavirus vaccines — some injected with water — in a scam that involved “unscrupulous” doctors and health workers, government officials said Wednesday.

The counterfeit jabs were administered over May and June during a deadly surge of the coronavirus in the East African nation, when new infections soared to record highs of about 1,700 cases per day.

The fraudsters targeted people looking to pay for immunisation, including corporate employees, at a time when vaccines were in short supply, said Dr Warren Naamara, the director of a health services monitoring unit under the presidency.

“Some unscrupulous individuals with intentions of making money, duped members of the public into a fake Covid-19 vaccine exercise,” Dr Naamara told AFP.

“We have arrested two medical workers in the scam, and one medical doctor is on the run.”

He said those conned into getting a fake vaccine — around 800 people — should not be alarmed as tests indicated the vials contained nothing dangerous.

“Some had water in them,” he added.

The scammers charged recipients between 80,000 and 500,000 Ugandan shillings (around $25-$120 / 20-100 euros) for a fake shot, officials said.

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