Fake covid vaccines hit the dark web for $1,000- Report
London, Jan. 13, 2021 (AltAfrica)-Black market for fake covid vaccines has begun to crop up online as criminals look to profit off people seeking an alternative means of securing a dose.
Despite the global race for a vaccine yielding some victories, distribution remains an issue. The slow rollout of vaccines has left long waiting lines for the life-saving drugs, leaving an opening for traffickers and criminals to exploit, often with light legal consequences and significant financial profits.
“On the dark web, traffickers are selling the [COVID-19] vaccine at $1,000 [a piece],” said Bernard Leroy, Director of the International Institute for Research Against Counterfeit Medicine (IRACM).
Trafficking in falsified medicines, including vaccines, is around 20 times less dangerous and 20 times more profitable than drug trafficking, research from the International Institute for Research Against Counterfeit Medicine (IRACM), with the global trade of illicit medicines valued at around $200 billion, according to Leroy.
Fake medicines, including vaccines can “poison the people who use them, fail to generate immunity or cure, and in extreme cases, kill,” according to Jeffrey Kemprecos, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Director of Communication, Government Affairs and Market Access for the Gulf Region.
“There is a lot of money to be made with virtually no risk of punishment,” Abigail Jones, Communications Director at the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA) explained.
‘Fake’ is popularly used to describe counterfeit, falsified, degraded and suboptimal medical products, including subscription drugs, protective equipment, and vaccines, an illegal industry that has only continued to grow.
“Faking medicines or vaccines is a crime and need to be punished as such … We only see the tip of the iceberg,” Jones warned.
The appearance and circulation of fake vaccines on the global market is a response to high demand and low supply, with criminal groups looking to prey upon people’s urgent need for vaccines and medicine caused by the pandemic’s spread across the world last year.
“During 2020, transnational organized crime switched to falsified medicine because it’s not so dangerous,” added Leroy. “In the world, only around two to three and a half percent of people are taking narcotics. But, of course, 100 percent of the population needs medicine.”
In Europe, Europol has identified scams related to face masks, gloves, medical equipment, COVID-19 test kits, and medicines that were discussed in the past to be helpful to fight COVID-19. These scams have also now begun to shift towards hopes for a vaccine.
“As what was observed at the beginning of the pandemic when criminals were advertising fake ‘corona cures,’ they are now adapting and attempting to exploit the development of the vaccine,” Jan Op Gen Oorth, Europol’s Spokesperson explained.
“Organized crime always goes where the risks are low and profits are high,” he added.