More than 80 people were arrested and 3,000 doses of fake Covid-19 vaccines were confiscated in a special campaign that China has carried out to crack down on vaccine-related crimes. The suspects had been profiting from the illegal manufacturing and sales of the vaccines since September 2020.
The case was solved in a joint action by police in Beijing and East China’s Jiangsu and Shandong provinces and other regions, according to reports from the Xinhua News Agency on Monday, 1 January. The criminal activity was scattered across multiple cities.
All fake vaccines have been tracked, said the reports. However, it was not revealed where the vaccines had been heading.
The captured suspects might have planned to send the vaccines abroad, a source close to a major Chinese vaccine producer said.
The source also said a group of people had smuggled vaccines into Africa before, although it is not known how they managed to leave the country.
According to the reports, the suspects made fake COVID-19 vaccines by injecting saline into pre-filled syringes and sold them at high prices.
“The vaccines filled with saline will for sure have no effect, but neither will it cause health problems, so it is clear that the suspects wanted money, not hurt people, Tao Lina, a Shanghai-based vaccine expert said.
China’s ministry of public security launched a special campaign to crack down on illegal production and sale of counterfeit vaccines, smuggling, illegal vaccination and other vaccine-related crimes.
Though the identity of the customers of the fake vaccines remains unknown, Tao said it could not have been vaccination institutions officially registered by the centres for disease control and prevention, as they all know the risk of receiving fake vaccines is too great.
In China, each box of vaccines has a unique code that must be scanned during the vaccination process to confirm its authenticity, although it is also possible that the code might not be scanned during the process of emergency vaccination, Tao noted.