On Thursday morning at a vaccination center in Biella, Italy, a veteran nurse faced something she had never seen before.
The nurse, Filippa Bua, was preparing to give a man a dose of Covid vaccine when she realized that the small patch of arm he offered in a gap between his sweatshirt and T-shirt looked much pinker than his face.
When she touched it, she realized what was wrong.
“Rubber foam,” said Ms. Bua, 59. “It was made of rubber foam.”
The man — whose identity was not disclosed for privacy reasons — wore a thick theater corset covered in rubber foam, to which two foam arms were attached, according to Ms. Bua. She added that it was “quite well made.” His goal, she said, was to obtain a vaccination certificate, enabling him to go to work without actually getting the shot.
The stratagem was the latest and perhaps most original episode of vaccine evasion in the struggle between Italy’s government and the country’s anti-vaccine faction. Italy appears to have fewer vaccine skeptics than other European countries do, but, apparently, some in that camp are very determined.
About 13 percent of Italy’s adult population have not had a single shot, and cases have been rising since mid-October.
The country has adopted several measures to push skeptics to get a vaccine. It became the first in Europe to mandate vaccinations for health care workers, then broadly required people to obtain a health certificate, or Green Pass, to participate in many social activities and to go to work.
Last week, Italy announced that people would need proof of vaccination to sit inside bars and restaurants, and required the same proof from all hospital staff, teachers and law enforcement officers.
But those fighting vaccination became more creative. Reports emerged about a trade in fake health passes on Telegram groups and of anti-vaccination doctors who injected their patients with saline instead of vaccine in order for them to get a certificate.
The attempt to get vaccinated in a fake arm, however, is perhaps the most audacious scheme to have emerged.
Ms. Bua said that following the extension of the vaccination requirements, more patients have shown up for their first shots, albeit mostly dragging their feet. Some urged her to inject them quickly, some cried and some cursed the government or their children for forcing them to the vaccination line.
The foam-armed man, on the contrary, was pleasant and serene, she said, though her own reaction was anything but.
“It was so humiliating,” Ms. Bua said, “thinking that a nurse cannot tell the difference between rubber foam and skin.”
The health authorities reported the episode to the police. Alberto Cirio, the president of the Piedmont region where Biella is located, said that the episode was “of enormous gravity, unacceptable given the sacrifice our community is enduring because of the pandemic.”
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