‘Tip of the Iceberg’: Hundreds of Fake COVID-19 Vaccines Seized in South Africa, China - Interpol

© AP Photo / Achmad IbrahimA health official prepares one of many vaccine injections.
A health official prepares one of many vaccine injections. - Sputnik International, 1920, 04.03.2021
There are several COVID-19 vaccines in the market including ones developed by Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca. The vaccines, based on various types of technology, teach the immune system to recognize and fight SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

The International Criminal Police Organization, commonly known as Interpol, revealed on Thursday that South African and Chinese police have seized hundreds of fake COVID-19 vaccines.

According to the international crime-control investigation, around 400 vials, equivalent to around 2,400 doses of fake vaccines, were discovered at a warehouse in Germiston, outside Johannesburg in South Africa. In addition to the fake vaccine doses, officers also recovered fake masks and arrested two Chinese people and a Zambian national linked to the haul, The Guardian reported.

“Whilst we welcome this result, this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to COVID-19 vaccine-related crime,” Interpol Secretary General Juergen Stock told the outlet.

During another recent raid on a manufacturing site in China, police seized a large cache of fake vaccines and arrested around 80 suspects connected to the vaccines.

Interpol also revealed this week that in addition to the arrests in South Africa and China, it was also receiving reports of fake vaccine distribution and scam attempts targeting nursing homes and other healthcare facilities. 

The organization also warned that no legitimate vaccines are being sold online.

“Any vaccine being advertised on websites or the dark web will not be legitimate, will not have been tested and may be dangerous,” the organization cautioned, The Guardian reported.

The latest seizure comes after Interpol issued a global alert in December 2020 to law enforcement officials in member countries, warning them to prepare for physical and online COVID-19 crime networks.

Earlier this week, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also issued a statement warning people of fraudulent COVID-19 tests, vaccines and treatments.

“Some people and companies are trying to profit from this pandemic by selling unproven and illegally marketed products that make false claims, such as being effective against the coronavirus,” the FDA wrote in a statement.

“These fraudulent products that claim to cure, treat, or prevent COVID-19 haven’t been evaluated by the FDA for safety and effectiveness and might be dangerous to you and your family,” the statement adds.

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