The International Criminal Police Organisation (INTERPOL) has alerted Nigeria, South Africa, United Kingdom, United States, and 190 other countries of threat from organised criminal groups during the upcoming COVID-19 vaccination campaigns, including fake vaccines and the theft of supplies.
The need for a vaccine has become more urgent as the rate of infection continues to increase globally.
The World Health Organisation has so far identified 49 “candidate vaccines” at the stage of clinical trials in humans.
Hopes are high that shots could be ready for use before the end of the year as two frontrunner vaccines by BioNTech and Pfizer –already reported that phase 3 trials for their mRNA vaccine showed 95 per cent efficacy in treating COVID-19 and did not produce adverse side effects among thousands of volunteers.
INTERPOL, however, said that there is a rise in the activities of criminals who have started advertising and selling fake COVID-19 vaccines, especially online.
The Secretary General of INTERPOL, Jürgen Stock, stressed the need for coordination between law enforcement and health regulatory bodies to ensure that safety of individuals and wellbeing of communities are protected.
In a statement on Wednesday, Stock said: “As governments are preparing to roll out vaccines, criminal organisations are planning to infiltrate or disrupt supply chains.
“Criminal networks will also be targeting unsuspecting members of the public via fake websites and false cures, which could pose a significant risk to their health, even their lives.
“It is essential that law enforcement is as prepared as possible for what will be an onslaught of all types of criminal activity linked to the COVID-19 vaccine, which is why INTERPOL has issued this global warning.”
According to him, 3,000 websites associated with online pharmacies are suspected of selling fake medicines and medical devices.
He advised residents of INTERPOL’s 194-member countries to take special care when going online to search for medical equipment or medicines.