Pharmaceutical counterfeiting brought to the fore, as more than 3,000 saline filled vials being sold as COVID-19 vaccines were seized in Chinese police raids.
China’s police have arrested more than 80 members of a group assembling and distributing counterfeit COVID-19 vaccines. In raids on several locations across Beijing and cities in the eastern provinces, the police seized “more than 3,000 fake COVID-19 vaccines”.
According to Xinhua News Agency, the group had been filling vials with saline and selling them as vaccines since September 2019.
It is currently not public knowledge how many vaccines were sold.
This news comes as the country is ramping up its vaccination campaign. Sinopharm’s COVID-19 vaccine was approved in China in December 2020 and the country is currently aiming to vaccinate 50 million people by mid-February.
In response to the story, Alf Goebel, Chief Executive Officer of advanco, a provider of Pharmaceutical Level 3 Item Level Serialization, commented: “Pharmaceutical counterfeiting is a profoundly serious issue, one which this particular seizure of fake COVID-19 vaccines in China has brought to mainstream attention. It proves that despite the seriousness of this global pandemic, there are some who will happily exploit the vulnerabilities of people who are desperate to receive the vaccine. Although these specific fake vaccines were discovered in China, the issue could potentially reoccur anywhere else in the world.
“The discovery of the fake vaccine illustrates that even in countries where pharmaceutical track-and-trace is established, enforcement must be strong to make serialisation work. The seriousness of COVID-19 means that it is still possible for fake vaccines to fall through the cracks and enter wider society.
“It has therefore never been so important for product serialisation services to work together and encourage an open and secure supply chain for pharmaceutical companies. It is also vital for governments to fully enforce the regulations. This will help to overcome the life-threatening danger of fake drugs. This applies not just to COVID-19 vaccines, but all medicines and medical equipment.
“Support of global ESG initiatives is also another step forward to stamping out the issue of fake drugs. The UN Charter on sustainable development is a clear example of moves that are being established to ensure a safer and more responsible world which we can all enjoy.”