The International Criminal Police Organisation (INTERPOL) has warned against purchasing COVID-19 vaccines online, noting that fake versions of the medication are being sold.
INTERPOL issued the warning in a statement on its website.
The warning comes after the police organisation dismantled criminal associations selling fake vaccines in China and South Africa, which led to the arrest of 80 people.
According to INTERPOL, such fake vaccines are at risk of serious health hazards.
The statement read: “With criminal groups producing, distributing and selling fake vaccines, the risks to the public are clear: these can include buying a product which not only does not protect against COVID-19, but poses a serious health hazard if ingested or injected. Such products are not tested, regulated or safety-checked.
“Legitimate vaccines are not for sale. They are strictly administered and distributed by national healthcare regulators.
“Anyone buying these products online also runs the risk of potentially giving their money to organized criminals.”
Jürgen Stock, INTERPOL Secretary-General, emphasised that “anyone who orders an ‘online vaccine’ instead of getting it from their national supplier is buying a fake product”.
He said: “From the very beginning of the pandemic, criminals have preyed on people’s fears in order to make fast cash. Fake vaccines are the latest in these scams, which is why INTERPOL and HSI are warning the public to be extra vigilant,” he said.
“Anyone ordering a vaccine online rather than obtaining it from their national provider will be buying a fake product.
“The networks behind these crimes have global ambitions. No country or region can fight this type of crime alone. INTERPOL is assisting law enforcement around the world to both identify criminal networks and to dismantle them.”