ROME (AP) — An Italian dentist who presented a fake arm for a COVID-19 vaccine says he has since gotten a shot and that the vaccine “is the best weapon we have against this terrible disease.”
Dr. Guido Russo faces possible criminal fraud charges for having worn an arm made out of silicone when he first showed up at a vaccine hub in the northern city of Biella. Italy has required doctors and nurses to be vaccinated since earlier this year.
Russo insisted during a Wednesday night appearance on Italian talk show La7 that he wasn’t trying to defraud the government or to dupe anyone because the arm was obviously not real. He said he wanted to make a personal protest against vaccine mandates.
A nurse who spotted the silicone arm reported Russo to her managers. The dentist acknowledged his protest failed and said he received a vaccine dose in one of his actual arms the next day “because the system obliged me to.”
He added: “I think at this point the vaccine is the only weapon we have against this terrible disease, but there should be a freedom of choice.”
Russo said he isn’t anti-vaccination and had received all his childhood vaccines. He said he had some of those vaccines redone over the summer, including a tetanus shot.
While Italy’s vaccination rate is nearly 85% of the currently eligible population ages 12 and over, people in the the age range from 30 to 59 have proven the most resistant to vaccinations, with nearly 3.5 million still not having received their first doses.
The government is expanding its vaccine mandate to other categories of workers, including law enforcement officers and teachers.