South African authorities seized hundreds of fake COVID-19 vaccines following a global alert issued by International Police buster, INTERPOL. International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) is an inter-governmental organization in 194 member countries.
The International buster, shared data to compare details of genuine vaccines and authorized shipping methods recommended by pharmaceuticals companies.
The authorities’ uncovered 400 ampoules, equivalent to around 2,400 doses, and substandard 3M masks in a warehouse in Germiston, Gauteng.
Three Chinese and a Zambian nationals suspects were arrested concerning the incident.
In another incident in China, police identified a similar network selling counterfeit COVID-19 vaccines. The authorities raided the manufacturing premises, and arrested about 80 suspects. More than 3,000 fake vaccines were found on the crime scene.
INTERPOL had earlier issued an Orange Notice warning law enforcement to alert against organized crime networks targeting COVID-19 vaccines, physically and online.
“Following our warning that criminals would target the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, both on and offline, INTERPOL continues to provide its full support to national authorities working to protect the health and safety of their citizens,” said INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock
“Since COVID-19 reached the shores of South Africa, the government has adopted an integrated multi-disciplinary law enforcement approach. This, together with our association with counterparts from all INTERPOL member countries, is proving to be very effective as we have seen in the arrests for foreign nationals attempting to peddle fake vaccines to unsuspecting people within South Africa,” said Brigadier Vish Naidoo, South African Police National Spokesperson.
A spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Public Security said, “The Chinese government attaches great importance to vaccine security. Chinese police are conducting a targeted campaign to prevent and crack down on crimes related to vaccines, proactively investigating and combating crimes related to vaccines in accordance with law. We will further strengthen the constructive cooperation with INTERPOL and law enforcement agencies of other countries to effectively prevent such crimes.”
Investigations are continuing, and in addition to the arrests in South Africa and China, INTERPOL is also receiving additional reports of fake vaccine distribution and scam attempts targeting health bodies, such as nursing homes.
INTERPOL is again warning the public that no approved vaccines are currently available for sale online. Any vaccine being advertised on websites or the dark web, will not be legitimate, will not have been tested and may be dangerous.