Following the start of vaccination programs in Latin America, organized crime has not been left behind and the sale of fake vaccines has been reported in numerous Hispanic countries. Many of these frauds have been carried out through social networks where hundreds of unwary people have fallen into the trap.
For its part, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) warned about the problem of fake vaccines and highlighted in a press release that “Vaccines not acquired through government purchases from certified suppliers and offered by authorized national vaccination circuits are presumed to be false and are dangerous to health.”
In Mexico, the Federal Commission for Protection against Health Risks (COFEPRIS) warned that several groups were selling fake vaccines from the Chinese companies Sinpharm, Sinovac and Cansino Biologics, as well as the Pfizer vaccine. After the arrest of six people, the authorities confirmed that the victims of the scam were sold fake doses for which they were charged up to $545 dollars to receive the first dose, although there are cases where they were charged up to $1,128.
The most worrying aspect of the Mexican case is that cartels appear to be involved in the scam, as they have found everything from fake laboratories offering the vaccine to attacks by hired assassins who have tried to seize real doses of the vaccine.
The level of the scam in the southern neighbor of the United States reached such a level that Mexican authorities managed to dismantle a fake website that attempted to impersonate the original Pfizer website. The website offered vaccines for sale to the public and even gave a telephone number to place orders.
Illegal vaccines have been imported into Colombia from the United Arab Emirates
In Colombia, the National Institute of Medicines and Food (INVIMA) together with the police seized 70 alleged contraband Covid-19 vaccines at the El Dorado airport in Bogota. According to the authorities, the Vero Cell vaccines, made by the Chinese company IMBCAMS, are believed to have come from the United Arab Emirates, the first country to market the vaccines against the virus, where companies are already offering vacations that include vaccination for up to $55,000.
For its part, INVIMA also alerted Colombians regarding the problem of the sale of fake vaccines saying that “We know that there is an eagerness to vaccinate us, but there are unscrupulous people who for commercial purposes promise vaccines for #COVID19.”
In Medellin, the Colombian Customs Police (POLFA) captured 27 boxes containing fake vaccines. According to the institution, even in the Venezuelan border city of Cúcuta, a batch of supposed Pfizer vaccines was sold for up to $18,000.
In Argentina, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, sales of fake vaccines are swarming on social networks
In Argentina, different social networks have offered the Pfizer vaccine. There have also been reports of misuse of existing doses in a scandal known as “Vacunatorio V.I.P.” where officials of the Argentine Ministry of Health itself offered to vaccinate as a priority to friends and relatives of Alberto Fernandez’s government.
In Bolivia, the Vice-Ministry for the Defense of User and Consumer Rights and the Special Anti-Crime Force (FELCC) opened an investigation into the sale of fake vaccines, since in the Andean country the sale of vaccines was also being reported in social networks.
Meanwhile, in Peru, advertisements began to proliferate on social networks offering Sinopharm’s Covid-19 vaccine for values ranging from $8 to the stratospheric price of $1,620.
In Ecuador, the police shut down an alleged hospital center where fake doses were being supplied, in which up to 70,000 doses of a drug with no sanitary validity were provided. According to the Quito police, the fraudulent center was charging $15 for each dose of the vaccine. Ecuadorian authorities also warned of scams circulating through WhatsApp groups offering the vaccine.
In Brazil a group of counterfeiters planned a millionaire scam to the Ministry of Health
In Brazil there has been a wave of indignation over fake vaccinations to the elderly, where older adults have been given vaccines filled with air, or even the person in charge of the inoculation didn’t press the plunger. The authorities of Rio de Janeiro stated in a communiqué that any health professional who diverts doses or commits irregularities in the vaccination process could face up to 12 years in prison.
The scam has reached such an extent that the federal police arrested two people who tried to negotiate with the Brazilian Ministry of Health the sale of 200 million fake doses. According to the police, the two arrested individuals allegedly presented themselves to the Ministry of Health with false credentials. One of the persons identified in the scam was the Brazilian businessman Christian Pinto Faria.
The Brazilian Federal Police carried out seven search operations in the states of Minas Gerais and Espirito to locate fake doses. It is estimated that a large part of the fake vaccine doses that have been sent to Europe come from Brazil.