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Reports: Alleged fake COVID vaccine scam in India used saltwater

Some 2,500 people who thought they were getting vaccinated got a saline solution instead, Indian authorities allege.

An estimated 2,500 people in India who thought they were getting the COVID-19 vaccine were given salt water instead as part of an alleged widespread, moneymaking scam, according to multiple reports.

CBS News reports 14 people have been arrested in the investigation and a private hospital has been cordoned off. CNN reports some of the arrested are doctors.

CNN and CBS report there were at least 12 fake vaccination drives in and around Mumbai in May and June. At least 2,000 people in Mumbai and 500 in Bengal may have been victimized.

"They were using saline water and injecting it," Vishal Thakur, a senior official of the Mumbai police department, told CNN. "Every fake vaccination camp that they held, they were doing this."

Suspicions were raised when people who had been given the alleged saline shots did not see their vaccination certificates appear on the government's online portal, CBS reported. Additionally, none of the participants reported any of the usual side-effects from the vaccine.

The scam netted $28,000, according to CNN. Those arrested reportedly face charges that include suspicion of cheating, attempts at culpable homicide and criminal conspiracy.

India on Friday crossed the grim milestone of more than 400,000 people lost to the coronavirus, a number that though massive is still thought to be a vast undercount because of a lack of testing and reporting.

New cases are on the decline after exceeding 400,000 a day in May, but authorities are preparing for another possible wave and are trying to ramp up vaccination.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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