Fitness to Practise Update Series: It was all in vein…? | Fieldfisher
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Fitness to Practise Update Series: It was all in vein…?

Hannah Unger



German nurse suspected of administering saline solution instead of Covid vaccines to thousands of patients


At least 8,600 people in Germany may require fresh vaccinations after authorities reported that a nurse, who has not been named, was being investigated for swapping Covid-19 vaccines for saline solution.

The 40-year-old nurse is accused of administering saline solution instead of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine to six people at the German Red Cross vaccination centre — in Friesland, a rural district near the North Sea coast — in April 2021. Authorities are now calling all 8,600 people that were vaccinated between 5 March to 20 April to get another vaccine shot, as a precautionary measure.

Police believe that the nurse might have swapped out the vaccine shots on multiple occasions. It is, however, unclear, how many of the 8,600 people were given saline shots by the nurse. The nurse has not been cooperative with their investigation, the police told the media.

Claudia Schröder, the deputy head of the Lower Saxony corona crisis team, told the German public radio broadcaster NDR:

“Since we do not know whether, how many and who is specifically affected, and we are talking about a period of seven weeks, we have offered everyone to carry out a repeat. A repeat vaccination is advisable even then and unproblematic if the vaccination was successful. That would not increase the protection in that case, but it is completely harmless. And so this is now the method of choice.”

Peter Beer, police investigator, also told the media that, based on witness statements, there was “a reasonable suspicion of danger.” Meanwhile, those affected by the nurse’s swapping of Covid vaccines include people over 70 who visited the Friesland vaccination centre, as well as employees of hospices, mobile care services, educators and doctors.

The nurse has since been suspended from her job. The motive of the nurse was not clear - but she had aired sceptical views about vaccines in social media posts, police investigators said. There have been no reports as of yet in relation to whether the nurses' actions will have any impact upon her registration as a nurse. 

Fitness to Practise

Complaints to regulators in relation to professionals who are 'Covid deniers' and 'Anti Vaxxers' have been made to regulators in this jurisdiction.

In the UK, a nurse (Ms Shemirani) was struck off the NMC register in June 2021 for denying the existence of Covid-19 and discouraging people from getting vaccinated. Ms Shemirani, who at the time of the hearing was an aesthetic nurse and independent prescriber in East Sussex, had become a prominent anti-vaccination campaigner and denier of Covid-19, and had spoken at protests. The NMC panel heard how Ms Shemirani had “actively discouraged people from wearing masks, adhering to social distancing, and taking vaccinations”. Ms Shemirani had also made “derogatory” comments about other nursing and health professionals who supported vaccination against COVID 19, describing nurses as being “complicit in genocide” and “criminals and liars”.


As 'Covid denier' and 'Anti Vaxxer' complaints make their way through screening committees, it may be that Fitness to Practice Inquiries here in this jurisdiction will hear submissions on the relevance of constitutional rights, such as the freedom of expression, in such 'Covid denier' and 'Anti Vaxxer' conduct. Whilst expressing negative views in relation to Covid 19 / vaccinations can be done in a private capacity (without connecting the views to the individual's professional role) and therefore outside of the professional environment, it would appear that a  Fitness to Practise Inquiry is likely to be asked to determine whether a  professional is using their professional status to promote and support their views and whether that conduct is a risk to the public.

Written by Eimear Burke and Hannah Unger

Areas of Expertise

Public and Regulatory