On Thursday morning, at a vaccination center in Biella, Italy, a seasoned nurse was confronted with something she had never seen before.
The nurse, Filippa Bua, was about to administer a dose of the Covid vaccine to a man when she realized that the small piece of his arm he was offering in a space between his sweatshirt and his T- shirt looked much rosier than her face.
When she touched him, she realized what was wrong.
“Foam rubber,” said Ms. Bua, 59. “It was made of foam rubber. “
The man – whose identity was withheld for confidentiality reasons – wore a thick theatrical corset covered with foam rubber, to which two foam arms were attached, according to Ms Bua. She added that it was “pretty well done”. Her goal, she said, was to get a vaccination certificate, allowing her to go to work without getting the vaccine.
The ploy was the most recent and perhaps the most original episode of vaccine breakout in the fight between the Italian government and the country’s anti-vaccine faction. Italy seems to have fewer vaccine skeptics than other European countries, but apparently some in this camp are very determined.
About 13% of Italy’s adult population has not received a single injection and cases have been on the rise since mid-October.
The country has adopted several measures to urge skeptics to get vaccinated. He became the first in Europe to mandate vaccination for healthcare workers, and then widely demanded that people get a health certificate, or Green Pass, to participate in many social activities and get to work.
Last week, Italy announced that people would need proof of vaccination to sit inside bars and restaurants, and demanded the same proof from all hospital staff, teachers and law enforcement.
But those who fight vaccination have become more creative. There have been reports of a trade in fake health passes on Telegram groups and anti-vaccination doctors who injected their patients with saline instead of a vaccine in order for them to get a certificate.
However, the attempt to get the vaccine in a fake arm is perhaps the most daring ploy that has emerged.
Ms Bua said that following the extension of vaccination requirements, more patients have shown up for their first vaccines, although most dragging their feet. Some urged her to inject them quickly, others cried and others cursed the government or their children for forcing them to follow the immunization line.
The man with the foam arms, on the contrary, was pleasant and serene, she said, although her own reaction was anything but.
“It was so humiliating,” Ms. Bua said, “thinking that a nurse can’t tell the difference between foam rubber and skin.”
Health officials reported the episode to the police. Alberto Cirio, the president of the Piedmont region where Biella is located, said the episode was “of enormous gravity, unacceptable given the sacrifice our community is enduring because of the pandemic”.