While South Africa has seen a rapid decline in Covid-19 infections in the last few weeks, people remain desperate for a vaccine. Last night, authorities announced that they had seized 2 400 doses of fake vaccines at a warehouse in Germiston, Gauteng.
The bust comes in the wake of an alert issued by Interpol, the international police agency. They warned officials in law enforcement that vaccines could be a prime target for criminal networks, both in-person and online.
According to Interpol, Chinese police first raided a counterfeit manufacturing premise in China, arresting 80 suspects. They also seized 3 000 fake Covid-19 vaccines on the scene.
Now, three Chinese nationals and a Zambian were also arrested in Germiston when SAPS uncovered 400 ampoules.
This equates to 2 400 doses of fake vaccines as well as a large quantity of 3M respirator masks. All of the investigations were facilitated by Interpol’s illicit goods and global health programme.
National police spokesperson, Brigadier Vish Naidoo said, “Since Covid-19 reached the shores of South Africa, the government has adopted an integrated, multi-disciplinary law enforcement approach.
“Our association with counterparts from all Interpol member countries is proving to be very effective, as we have seen in the arrests of foreign nationals attempting to peddle fake vaccines to unsuspecting people within South Africa.”
Tip of the iceberg
The Interpol alert also included details and images of genuine vaccines and authorised shipping methods provided by pharmaceutical companies to assist in the identification of fake vials.
Interpol secretary-general Jürgen Stock said, “Whilst we welcome this result, this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Covid-19 vaccine related crime.”
The police agency has warned 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. Anyone who buys these drugs is putting themselves at risk and giving their money to organised criminals,” said Stock.