Coronavirus
Oscar Sánchez (in blue) was given the nonexistent vaccine by a volunteer nursing student. Oscar Sánchez (in blue) was given the nonexistent vaccine by a volunteer nursing student.

Another empty Covid syringe; AMLO suggests incident was staged

Human error, a setup or a stunt are among the possibilities, says deputy health minister

President López Obrador has suggested that the injection of a man with an empty syringe at a Covid-19 vaccination center in Mexico City was staged.

In an incident filmed by his partner and later posted to social media, Óscar Sánchez was injected with an empty syringe at a vaccination center in the northern borough of Gustavo A. Madero last Friday.

In the video, circulated by news media and on social media, the unnamed nursing student can be seen inserting the syringe into Sánchez’s arm, but she doesn’t depress the plunger, merely taking the needle out of his arm after a moment.

The apparent error came after a similar incident occurred in Ciudad Obregón, Sonora, on March 27.

Speaking at his regular news conference on Monday, López Obrador said an investigation was needed to determine whether the incident was staged.

“They’re capable of everything,”  López Obrador also said, referring to the media, of which he is frequently critical. “… I know a journalist and a television channel that were specialists in setups. So I don’t trust [the media].”

The president said that about 1.2 million vaccine doses have been administered in Mexico City and questioned why a single case in which a senior was injected with an empty syringe became national news.

“It appeared in all the media outlets,” López Obrador said. “… This is big news? Don’t you think it’s an exaggeration?”

The president noted that Sánchez was vaccinated after officials became aware that he had been injected with an empty syringe. But the media didn’t report that, he asserted.

Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell, the government’s coronavirus point man, said Monday night that no hypotheses about what happened at the Gustavo A. Madero vaccination center could be ruled out. Human error and a setup or stunt were among the possibilities, he told the Health Ministry’s coronavirus press briefing.

López-Gatell said the person who injected Sánchez, as well as “people external to the operation,” could have been involved in a plan not to fill the syringe on purpose.

The latter could have pressured or paid a bribe to the former, he said, adding that the authorities could press criminal charges if they find evidence of premeditated wrongdoing.

The deputy minister said an investigation would be carried out as quickly as possible, adding that the person who injected Sánchez with the empty syringe had been identified.

The director of the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS), Zoé Robledo, said earlier on Monday that the person in question, a young woman, is a nursing student at the National Polytechnic Institute. Robledo said authorities are investigating how she was recruited and what training she completed before starting work as a volunteer at the vaccination center.

The IMSS chief added that supervisors at the center said the woman felt uncomfortable and pressured because she was being filmed while working.

“… For us, the most important thing is to clear things up,” Robledo said.

The senior injected with the empty syringe said in a media interview that he believes the incident was intentional.

“I feel that it was done wittingly; it can’t be a human error. The young woman knew exactly what she was doing,” Sánchez told Grupo Multimedios without saying what the motivation might have been.

He described the incident as an “attack on health,” adding that it mustn’t go unpunished because impunity could cause others to lose faith in the government’s vaccination program.

Sánchez called on authorities to increase supervision of the vaccination process and warned other seniors to be vigilant when getting their shots. The senior, who got a shot with a filled vaccine after he told officials what had happened, said he is considering taking legal action and is currently receiving advice from experts.

Meanwhile, the number of vaccine doses administered in Mexico increased to just under 9.3 million on Monday, according to Health Ministry data. About 6.85 million seniors have received at least one vaccine dose, an increase of more than 800,000 compared to last Wednesday.

That means that there are still just under 9 million people aged 60 and over who have not yet been vaccinated. The federal government is aiming to inoculate all seniors with at least one shot by the end of April.

Source: Reforma (sp), El Universal (sp), Milenio (sp) 

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