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Dangerous jabs Public warned of fake Covid-19 vaccine risk as gangs hope to cash in

In an “early warning notification,” Europol said that crime gangs already have reacted to opportunities presented by the coronavirus pandemic.

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Vaccination against the coronavirus is on its way. Photo: Reuters/Dado Ruvic

Vaccination against the coronavirus is on its way. Photo: Reuters/Dado Ruvic

REUTERS

Vaccination against the coronavirus is on its way. Photo: Reuters/Dado Ruvic

The European Union police agency Europol has warned the public of dangerous counterfeit vaccines being distributed by criminal gangs intent on making a profit. 

As the first vaccines are prepared for distribution across Europe, the agency issued an alert that organised crime will attempt to take advantage of the market by either passing off fake vaccines or even hijacking shipments of genuine shots.

In an “early warning notification,” Europol said that crime gangs already have reacted to opportunities presented by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Once a legitimate vaccine enters the market, counterfeited versions of the specific vaccine brand are expected to circulate rapidly,” the agency's warning said, citing a phony flu vaccine that the World Health Organisation discovered in Mexico in October.

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A medical worker demonstrates a vial with Sputnik V (Gam-COVID-Vac) vaccine during the vaccination against the coronavirus disease at a clinic in the town of Domodedovo near Moscow, Russia yesterday. Photo: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters

A medical worker demonstrates a vial with Sputnik V (Gam-COVID-Vac) vaccine during the vaccination against the coronavirus disease at a clinic in the town of Domodedovo near Moscow, Russia yesterday. Photo: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters

REUTERS

A medical worker demonstrates a vial with Sputnik V (Gam-COVID-Vac) vaccine during the vaccination against the coronavirus disease at a clinic in the town of Domodedovo near Moscow, Russia yesterday. Photo: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters

“Similar to the fake influenza vaccine encountered in Mexico, counterfeit Covid-19 vaccines may represent a significant public health threat if they are ineffective at best or toxic at worst, given their production in underground labs without hygiene standards,” Europol said.

“Fake vaccines may even have a wider-reaching impact if new outbreaks emerge in communities assumed to be vaccinated.”

As a result, the EU’s 27 member nations and other countries have been urged to be aware of the possible involvement of criminals in the vaccine development and distribution process.”

The statement came after Britain gave emergency approval on Wednesday to a vaccine produced by US drugmaker Pfizer and Germany-based BioNTech, making Britain the first Western country to authorise a vaccine against the coronavirus.

The first recipient of the coronavirus vaccine in Northern Ireland will get the jab on Tuesday morning after stocks of coronavirus vaccine arrived there on Friday.

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