Police in Johannesburg have seized hundreds of fake COVID-19 vaccines and arrested four suspects in connection with the haul, the Interpol global police coordination agency said on Thursday.
This comes after Interpol, whose headquarters are in France, issued a global alert in December to law enforcement across its 194 member countries, warning them to prepare for organized crime networks targeting COVID-19 vaccines, both physically and online.
During the operation, over 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, and 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 added.
Police in China further raided the manufacturing premises and arrested over 80 suspects with more than 3,000 fake vaccines on the scene.
“Whilst we welcome this result, this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to COVID-19 vaccine-related crime,” Interpol Secretary General Juergen Stock said.
Interpol said investigations are continuing and it is also receiving additional reports of fake vaccine distribution and scam attempts targeting health institutions, such as nursing homes.