Counterfeit Pfizer vaccines. The American pharmaceutical company confirmed on April 21 that the suspicious doses of its anti-covid vaccine seized in Mexico and Poland and sold for up to $ 2,500 per unit, were fake.

In Mexico, the vials had been hidden in coolers, among cold drinks. They had fake lot numbers and expiration dates. Before the deception came to light, 80 people were said to have been administered these counterfeits in a Mexican clinic. The doses contained only salt water, without active product. In Poland, on the other hand, the confiscated doses contained a cosmetic product, probably an anti-wrinkle cream, according to Pfizer.

Health risk

What risks do these fake vaccines represent? The first is to inject a substance that can cause dangerous allergic reactions. This is for example the case of doses containing anti-wrinkle cream.

But even when the solution contained in the false vaccine is harmless, as in the case of salt water, the risk also exists: that of mistakenly thinking of being protected by the injection and of slacking off on gestures. barriers. People “vaccinated” with these counterfeits then run the same risk of contracting covid as an unvaccinated person.

The crisis favors illegal activities

And these counterfeits are not anecdotal. “We are aware that in the current climate, favored by the ease and convenience of electronic commerce and the anonymity afforded by the internet, there is going to be an increase in fraud, counterfeiting and other illegal activities related to vaccines. and covid-19 treatments“, admitted a spokesperson for Pfizer on the channel. ABC News.

Indeed, since the launch of the vaccination campaign against covid at the end of 2020, scams have multiplied. As of January 15, in Nigeria, the country’s authorities warned against the circulation of fake covid vaccines, even before the ordered doses were received.

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6,000 fake Sputnik V in Mexico

In Mexico too, frauds flourished in February. The health authorities of the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon then warned against sales “clandestine“of “alleged vaccines for covid“and called on the population not to buy them. In March, the World Health Organization (WHO) was concerned that these Pfizer vaccines”falsified“be”still in circulation in the region“.

The same month, still in Mexico, the government seized a shipment of nearly 6,000 doses of Russian fake Sputnik V vaccine against covid-19 in a private plane bound for Honduras. Detected inside two coolers, the bottles had been hidden among drinks and candy.

Interpol on the spot

Faced with the scale of the phenomenon, the International Criminal Police Organization Interpol took up the case. In early March, she announced that she had seized 2,400 doses of fake vaccines. She also revealed that she had participated in the dismantling in China of a network of counterfeit vaccines. 80 suspects had been arrested and more than 3,000 bottles of salt water disguised as vaccine seized on the spot.

Interpol then warned that it was only “the tip of the iceberg“, warning that”vaccines would be the preferred target of criminal networks“.

False websites and “darknet”

And the hunt for scams does not only happen in the field. According to Interpol, unauthorized vaccines are offered for sale on the internet. “Any vaccine promoted on websites or on the “darknet” will not be legitimate, will not have been tested and may be dangerous.“, then warned the organization.

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According to a report released on March 4 by the cybersecurity firm Kaspersky, about fifteen “darknet” merchant sites offer Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca doses. The price of a dose ranges from $ 250 ($ 200) to $ 1,200 ($ 1,000).

In Mexico, many fraudulent sites had offered anti-covid vaccines for sale online in January… without ever delivering them. These Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca vaccines were offered at prices ranging from 110 to 180 dollars (90 to 150 euros approximately) per dose. A simple way for criminal networks to make profit while retrieving bank details and personal data from millions of internet users.