COVID19: Emergency meeting over fake jab cards

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Attorney-General George Savvides is holding an extraordinary meeting Monday, with police and the Cyprus Medical Association (CMA), following allegations of doctors issuing forged COVID-19 vaccination certificates.

The meeting, attended by Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantelas, was called after the CMA said it could not lawfully suspend practitioners’ licenses who are under investigation for criminal offences.

Currently, the CMA has no right to suspend a doctor’s license until they have been convicted.

The latest development comes after a Larnaca-based 53-year-old GP was accused of handing out a fake vaccination card to a patient now intubated at Nicosia General’s ICU.

Dr Michalis Anastasiades, the head of the CMA disciplinary board, told daily Phileleftheros: “Everyone’s goal – both the state and doctors – is to ensure and protect public health.

“At the same time, there is the matter of the prestige of the medical profession, which CMA has a duty to maintain”.

Dubious past

The 53-year-old doctor, who denies the charges, has been remanded in custody for eight days, while the patient involved has admitted to not getting the jab.

“Once I get better, I will take five jabs,” the patient reportedly told nursing staff at the ICU.

Police are going through a list of 102 people who may have fake jab cards.

GPs were deployed to assist the island’s vaccination rollout by administering the AstraZeneca jab.

According to media reports, the suspected doctor proclaimed he had found a formula to cure cancer in the past, raising the hopes of hundreds of sufferers in Cyprus.

It was later proven that he had been handing out food supplements as a formula for the disease.

The medical profession has demanded the authorities take action against the doctor.

More fakes

Police are looking into another three cases of doctors who have allegedly issued fake vaccination cards.

In comments to Phileleftheros, police spokesperson Christos Andreou said on Monday the force is looking into two Paphos-based doctors and one Limassol physician who have reportedly handed out fake cards.

Andreou said the information came from the Ministry of Health. The investigation is still in the initial stages; testimonies are being taken, and anything that arises will be investigated in depth.

The Paphos case involves a paediatrician who allegedly issued a fake vaccination card for her son, who is now being treated at a COVID-19 ward at Limassol General.

A vaccination card is one requirement for Cypriots to secure a Safe Pass, granting them entry to crowded indoor and outdoor facilities such as restaurants, bars, supermarkets, and bakeries.

Patients with fake vaccination certificates have also been treated for coronavirus at Famagusta General Hospital, its scientific director Amalia Hadjyianni told CNA on Monday.

According to Hadjiyianni, a man hospitalised last week had a vaccination certificate.

“The patient has been discharged from the hospital, while the case is now in the hands of police,” said Hadiyianni.

She said this was the second patient found to be in possession of a vaccination card without having been vaccinated.

“It is unfortunate to see some people receive fake vaccination certificates from other doctors, endangering their lives, but also the lives of their loved ones.”

An anti-vax movement on the island is being aided by a few physicians who are either downplaying the seriousness of coronavirus or promoting anti-vaccination conspiracy theories.

In July, a 5,000-strong protest against vaccines and the Safe Pass had turned ugly when demonstrators had clashed with police outside the Presidential Palace.

Some demonstrators broke ranks with the main rally, heading to DIAS Media Group, setting fire to some vehicles, and trashing the reception area.

Cyprus has reported 105,982 COVID-19 cases and 441 deaths.

There are 286 patients in wards across the island, with 96 being treated in a more serious condition.

Some 90% of hospital patients have not been vaccinated against COVID-19.