COVID Vaccines Are Being Targeted by Organized Crime Networks, Interpol Global Alert Warns

Interpol issued a global alert on Wednesday, warning its 194 member countries to "prepare for organized crime networks targeting COVID-19 vaccines, both physically and online."

The organization's Secretary General, Jürgen Stock, said "criminal organizations are planning to infiltrate or disrupt supply chains" as governments prepare to roll out new vaccines.

"It is essential that law enforcement is as prepared as possible for what will be an onslaught of all types of criminal activity linked to the COVID-19 vaccine, which is why INTERPOL has issued this global warning," Stock said in a statement.

The Interpol Orange Notice details "potential criminal activity in relation to the falsification, theft and illegal advertising of COVID-19 and flu vaccines" as well as examples of crimes "where individuals have been advertising, selling and administering fake vaccines," the statement added.

Stock noted: "Criminal networks will also be targeting unsuspecting members of the public via fake websites and false cures, which could pose a significant risk to their health, even their lives."

Interpol also advised the public to be careful when conducting online searches for medical equipment or medicine.

According to an analysis by its Cybercrime Unit, about 1,700 of 3,000 websites associated with online pharmacies suspected of selling illicit medicines and medical devices contained cyber threats, especially phishing and spamming malware.

"To avoid falling victim to online scams, it is important to be vigilant, be skeptical and be safe, as offers which appear too good to be true usually are. Always check with your national health authorities or the World Health Organization for the latest health advice in relation to COVID-19," Interpol said.

It also warned that as testing is increased to help global travel resume, there is also a risk of "unauthorized and falsified testing kits" being made and distributed.

There are currently at least 212 COVID-19 vaccines being developed across the globe, as of November 12, according to the latest report by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Forty-eight of these vaccine candidates are at their clinical evaluation stages, while 164 are under pre-clinical evaluation, according to WHO.

 Sinovac Biotech Covid vaccine September 2020
A technician working in a lab at Sinovac Biotech where the company is producing their potential COVID-19 vaccine CoronaVac, pictured on September 24 in Beijing, China. Interpol has issued a global alert warning its 194 member countries to “prepare for organized crime networks targeting COVID-19 vaccines." Getty Images

The wider picture

The novel coronavirus has infected more than 63.3 million people since it was first reported in Wuhan, China.

More than 1.4 million people have died worldwide and more than 40.6 million have recovered as of Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins.

The graphic below, produced by Statista, shows the total number of COVID-19 vaccine doses secured by different countries.

COVID vaccine doses

The graphic below, produced by Statista, shows countries with the most COVID-19 cases.

COVID-19 spread in the world