The new “trend” in counterfeiting during the global pandemic

28 Jan, 2021

Not only has the Covid-19 pandemic shed light on worldwide flaws in social and health systems, disrupted supply chains and taken many lives across the world. It has also triggered unscrupulous illicit behaviors and the increase in smuggling and forgery.

The 26th of January, the UK’s National Health System warned the population through conventional media and via its social accounts to be vigilant about fake invitations to have the coronavirus vaccination, sent by scammers.(1) These emails were meant to collect bank account data or credit card details from the hapless. This is not a one-off case; back to April 2020, Google registered an explosion of phishing attacks and ended up blocking 18m coronavirus scam emails every day.(2)

It was but a short step from false Health System communications about vaccines to fake vaccines themselves. Last December Interpol issued a global alert, warning about the high risk of counterfeited vaccines spreading both physically and online.(3) In fact, the scammers were not long in coming. On January 15th Nigeria’s National Agency for Food Drug and Administration Control urged the public to be aware of fake coronavirus vaccines in circulation that can cause “Covid-like illnesses or other serious diseases that could kill.”(4) Just one day after, in Brazil, the National Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa) communicated that attempts to sell fake vaccines on websites and open markets have been already widely registered in the country.(5)

Finally, on the 25th of January a man was arrested in Washington, again, for the sale of fake vaccines. It has been reported that he was charging people $400 to $1,000 each to inject them with the presumed immunizing agent against Covid. Between 50 to 100 people have already received the “treatment” and officials still aren’t sure what they have been injected with. (6)

Given the alarming situation, it would be advisable for pharmaceutical companies to adopt an anticounterfeiting solution like the one developed by Authena. This consists in an interactive seal that could be applied both on packs and single vials, providing a double physical and digital protection. This seal is in fact blockchain encrypted and, through a tap of a smartphone, grants instant access to detailed info on the vaccine’s integrity, authenticity, and expiration date. Authena’s technology also allows product opening detection to prevent from the fraudulent refilling of empty vials. Plus, through a secured end-to-end traceability system, companies and public authorities could easily access a powerful dashboard to monitor the distribution and the administration campaign in each country in real time.

Alessandro Tacconelli

The new “trend” in counterfeiting during the global pandemic