Israel’s Migal Galilee Research Institute has issued a fraud notice warning residents of nations in South America not to buy or use a product falsely labeled as a coronavirus vaccine developed by the institute.
“We have just been made aware that a fake pharmaceutical product allegedly for use in connection with COVID-19 is fraudulently being advertised and apparently sold in South America with the logo of Migal…Migal Galilee Research Institute Ltd and their affiliates have no connection whatsoever with such product and know nothing about it. Migal’s name and logo have been used without its knowledge or permission,” the institute stressed in a release.
“This is fraud and the use of this fake product may endanger your health and safety!! Please refrain from purchasing or using the product!!” the institute advises.
The advisory comes amid the appearance of a “COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker” kit in countries throughout South America featuring MIGAL’s logo, including vials with Hebrew lettering, and the wording, in English, describing the products as “cutting edge Israeli Biotech innovating coronavirus immunotherapy treatments.”
In addition to the warning, Migal has informed authorities of the Latin American nations, including foreign and health ministry officials, to try to get the product off the market as soon as possible.
According to the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s Economy Department, the counterfeit medicine is being sold for $380 per box, with one of the distributors traced to Ecuador, a country which has been hit particularly hard by the virus and the corresponding economic calamity caused by a spike in joblessness and crime. It remains unclear who is responsible for distributing the fake vaccine, or how many units have been shipped and sold.
Migal is one of over 75 biotech companies worldwide working on coronavirus vaccines, but is nowhere near completion, with human trials expected to start only next month at the earliest on “young, healthy individuals.” Following clinical trials, the drug would need to be produced in vast quantities before becoming commercially available. The Israel Institute for Biological Research, a military-affiliated entity, is also working on a coronavirus vaccine, testing it on rodents at its biochemical defence laboratory as of last month.
Migal is the Israeli Science and Technology Ministry’s largest biotech research and development center in the country’s north, and has some 90 PhDs and 190 researchers as staff. It’s based in Kiryat Shmona, about 70 km northeast of Haifa.