BC Warns of Fake COVID-19 Vaccines Sold Online

January 20, 2021 Updated: January 20, 2021

A British Columbia health agency is urging the public not to buy COVID-19 vaccines that are advertised or sold online from unauthorised sources as “they are counterfeit, may pose risks to health, and are ineffective at protecting you from the COVID-19 virus.”

ImmunizeBC, funded by the BC Ministry of Health to provide immunization information and tools for BC residents, posted the scam warning on social media Tuesday, saying they have heard about emails and websites selling the supposed vaccines.

“These scams take advantage of genuine fears and worries, targeting those who are most vulnerable in our communities,” ImmunizeBC wrote on Twitter. “The only way to access safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines is through clinics organized or endorsed by your local public health authority.”

The agency also urges anyone who has knowledge of unauthorised sources selling the vaccines to report them to Health Canada.

Just last month, Health Canada issued a similar notice, warning Canadians about the purported COVID-19 vaccines sold online.

“Health Canada evaluates the safety, efficacy and quality of any drug or vaccine before it can be legally sold in Canada and all vaccines require specific storage conditions in order to maintain their quality,” the health agency said in the notice. “COVID-19 vaccines have a tightly-controlled supply chain, and will only be provided through clinics organized or endorsed by your local public health authority.”

In addition, Health Canada said it is working with Canada Border Services Agency, other government departments and agencies, including international partners, to protect Canadians from the counterfeit vaccines. Any incident of the suspected illegal activities will be reported to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

On the same note, the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) issued a global alert last year to law enforcement across its 194 member countries warning them of this issue.

“As governments are preparing to roll out vaccines, criminal organizations are planning to infiltrate or disrupt supply chains,” INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock said in the alert. “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.”

Meanwhile, Ottawa announced on Jan. 15 that the shipment of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine would be delayed as the company needs to upgrade its European manufacturing facility in order to keep up with the production of the vaccines, which will affect the supply to Canada for the next several weeks.

Canada was scheduled to get more than 417,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine this week and next, but will now receive just 171,093 doses this week and nothing the next week.