Interpol issued a global alert in December warning countries against crime networks targeting COVID-19 vaccines, both physically and online.
The South African government has taken to social media on Thursday 4 March to warn the public against buying the COVID-19 vaccine online.
“Any vaccine being advertised on websites or the dark web, is not legitimate, not tested and may be dangerous. Anyone who buys these drugs is putting themselves at risk and giving their money to organised criminals.”
The warning comes after Reuters reported that the South African police have seized hundreds of fake COVID-19 vaccines and arrested four suspects in connection with the haul, the Interpol global police co-ordination agency said.
This comes after Interpol, which is headquartered in France, issued a global alert in December to law enforcement across its 194 member countries, warning them to prepare for organised crime networks targeting COVID-19 vaccines, both physically and online.
Some 400 ampoules – equivalent to about 2 400 doses – containing the fake vaccine were found at a warehouse in Germiston, east of Johannesburg, where officers also recovered a large quantity of fake 3M masks, the agency said on Wednesday 3 March 2021 on its website.
Three Chinese nationals and a Zambian national were arrested.
The seizure and arrests in South Africa led to the identification of a network selling counterfeit COVID-19 vaccines in China, Interpol said in an e-mailed comment.
Police in China then raided the manufacturing premises, resulting in the arrest of some 80 suspects. More than 3 000 fake vaccines were seized on the scene, Interpol said on its website.
Meanwhile, Brigadier Vish Naidoo, South African Police National Spokesperson said that since COVID-19 reached the shores of South Africa, the government has adopted an integrated multi-disciplinary law enforcement approach.
“This, together with our association with counterparts from all Interpol member countries, is proving to be very effective as we have seen in the arrests for foreign nationals attempting to peddle fake vaccines to unsuspecting people within South Africa,” said