More than 80 people have been arrested in China on February 1 in a 'fake vaccine' ring crackdown, operative since September. In Jiangsu, Beijing and Shandong, Chinese police seized more than 3,000 fake COVID-19 vaccine doses and made arrests against those involved in the manufacture of counterfeit vaccines. According to China’s state-run press, Xinhua, a probe was ordered by the Ministry of Public Security into the matter, and those held were criminally charged for 'selling fake product and the illegal practice of medicine and fraud under the guise of the vaccines'. As per the police’s statement, the fraudsters have been selling the fake COVID-19 vaccines by filling saline solution into the vials. Furthermore, they sold the jabs for much higher prices.
Earlier, as countries worldwide started the mass vaccination drives and procured shipments of the vials from abroad, authorities had warned about the falsified vaccines. Police and health officials in countries worldwide sounded an alarm regarding the fake and unregulated COVID-19 treatments as the vaccination programs rolled out. In March, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a dire warning to the healthcare workers and government worldwide against the fake vaccines and unregistered websites selling counterfeit products that claim can cure coronavirus. Additionally, in an ‘early warning notification’, European Union police agency Europol asked the member states and third-party countries to stay vigilant against the organised crime scams linked to COVID-19 vaccines. The warning about 'fake vaccines' by Europol was issued after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) announced that it was set to conclude the evaluation of the first conditional marketing authorisation application for the vaccines.
“Increased vigilance for criminal fraudulent activity is advised to all Member States,” Europol said in a statement, stressing that criminals replacing genuine shots shipments with counterfeit vaccines. In an official report published in late November, Europol said, "It was identified that the distribution of substandard and counterfeit pharmaceutical products, including preventative COVID-19 vaccines had remained a consistent pandemic-related criminal activity.” It further warned, that there was potential harm of offline and online scams that might offer fake versions of vaccines in order to dupe the administrations. Citing health risks about the fake vaccination, the agency said that the fake product might be ineffective or toxic, given its production in labs without the required hygiene standards and could potentially harm human health.