Mexican officials have seized a shipment of fake Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine that was intended to be transported via a private aircraft to Honduras.
According to a March 17 statement from the government, officials found about 5,775 fake doses of the Russian vaccine inside two ice chests that were aboard a private aircraft at the Campeche International Airport. Photos taken by government officials, who worked with armed forces, showed them stowed alongside soft drinks and sweets in the plane.
The vials were seized by the government and kept cold while investigations were carried out to determine the source of the batch. An investigation between Russian and Mexican authorities will take place, and a number of Honduran citizens have been arrested, officials said.
The Russian Direct Investment Fund, which financed the development of the vaccine, told Russian state-affiliated news outlets that “analysis of the photographs of the seized batch, including the design of containers and labels, suggests that it is a fake substance that has nothing to do with the original vaccine.” The organization said that the vials were “designed and packaged as Sputnik V.”
State-run Russian media, in recent days, have cited officials as saying that there is an alleged disinformation campaign brewing against the vaccine in a bid to discredit the Kremlin.
The Russian Direct Investment Fund stated: “This is an example of possible provocations against Sputnik V just as Russian officials warned last week. Mexican government stopped and prevented this provocation possibly aimed at discrediting Sputnik V vaccine through shipment of fake vaccine.”
Mexico began vaccinating people with Sputnik V in February and has received 400,000 doses so far.
At the same time, the United States announced it would begin sending 4 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine to Mexico and Canada as part of a loan deal, Reuters reported. White House press secretary Jen Psaki later confirmed the move to reporters.
“It is not fully finalized yet but it is our aim,” she said.
Reports of blood disorders have prompted more than a dozen nations to suspend the use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine but on March 18, the European Union’s drug watchdog said that after an investigation it’s still convinced the benefits of that vaccine outweigh the risks.
The United States doesn’t need the AstraZeneca vaccine, which hasn’t been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, to meet its target of having enough doses for all U.S. adults by the end of May.
Reuters contributed to this report.