Health Canada Issues Warning on Counterfeit COVID-19 Vaccines

December 17, 2020 Updated: December 17, 2020

Health Canada is warning Canadians not to buy COVID-19 vaccines sold by unauthorized sources as they are counterfeit, ineffective, and potentially dangerous. 

In a Dec. 16 advisory, the health authority said counterfeit COVID-19 vaccines sold online or other unauthorized channels “may pose serious health risks” and are ineffective at protecting users from the COVID-19 virus.

“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 advisory said.  

Government-approved COVID-19 vaccines “will only be provided through clinics organized or endorsed by your local public health authority,” it continued. 

Health Canada said it is working with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), other government departments and agencies, and “international partners” to stamp out any counterfeit vaccines, but didn’t specify whether there were any reports of fake products already in circulation. 

“The Department will not hesitate to use all tools at its disposal to stop these illegal activities and will refer incidents of suspected counterfeit COVID-19 vaccines to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police,” said the advisory. 

Earlier this month, INTERPOL (International Criminal Police Organization) issued a global alert to law enforcement across its 194 member countries relating to the “falsification, theft, and illegal advertising of COVID-19 and flu vaccines,” warning them to prepare for organized crime networks targeting COVID-19 vaccines, both physically and online.

“As governments are preparing to roll out vaccines, criminal organizations are planning to infiltrate or disrupt supply chains,” said INTERPOL Secretary-General Jürgen Stock in a Dec. 2 release. 

“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.