South African authorities seized fake COVID-19 vaccines after INTERPOL issued a global alert.
South African authorities seized fake COVID-19 vaccines after INTERPOL issued a global alert. INTERPOL

A global fake Covid-19 distribution network has been dismantled in South Africa and China and “hundreds of illicit vaccines seized with arrests made across two continents,” says Interpol, which represents 194 international police forces.

In a statement published Wednesday, Interpol said that in South Africa, “some 400 ampoules — equivalent to around 2,400 doses — containing the fake vaccine were found at a warehouse in Germiston, Gauteng.”

 “Officers also recovered a large quantity of fake 3M masks and arrested three Chinese nationals and a Zambian national,” the statement added.

Doses of the fake vaccine were found at a warehouse in Germiston, South Africa.
Doses of the fake vaccine were found at a warehouse in Germiston, South Africa. INTERPOL

In China, “police successfully identified a network selling counterfeit Covid-19 vaccines, raided the manufacturing premises, resulting in the arrest of some 80 suspects, and seized more than 3,000 fake vaccines on the scene,” the agency said.

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

A spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Public Security remarked that “the Chinese government attaches great importance to vaccine security” and will continue to “further strengthen the constructive cooperation with Interpol” to crack down on illegal vaccine crimes, according to the Interpol statement. 

Interpol said it was also dealing with “additional reports of fake vaccine distribution and scam attempts targeting health bodies, such as nursing homes.”

The 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 purchases these fake vaccines is “putting themselves at risk and giving their money to organized criminals,” the statement concluded.

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