With the Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine expected to arrive in Brampton early next week for frontline healthcare workers, Health Canada has issued a warning to Canadians planning on jumping the queue to purchase a cure online or through any other unauthorized sources.
Acting on information released by the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), Health Canada says the vaccine bought through unauthorized sources are counterfeit, are ineffective at protecting against COVID-19 and may cause their own serious health side effects. INTERPOL reports websites are already appearing that are promoting the sale of the vaccine.
INTERPOL further suggests organized crime networks are likely behind the sale of the illegal drugs.
“Criminal networks will be targeting unsuspecting members of the public via fake websites and false cures, which could pose significant risk to their health, even their lives. said Jürgen Stock, INTERPOL Secretary General. “It is essential that law enforcement is as prepared as possible for what will be an onslaught of all types of criminal activity linked to the COVID-19 vaccine, which is why INTERPOL has issued this global warning.”
As well as targeting COVID-19 vaccines, INTERPOL says as international travel gradually resumes it is likely that testing for the virus will become of greater importance, resulting in a parallel production and distribution of unauthorized and falsified testing kits.
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The distribution of the vaccine in Canada is controlled by Health Canada which evaluates the safety, efficacy and quality of any drug or vaccine before it can be legally sold and all vaccines require specific storage conditions in order to maintain their quality. 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. COVID-19 vaccines are being offered free of charge to all Canadians.
In addition to the dangers of ordering potentially life-threatening products, an analysis by the INTERPOL’s Cybercrime Unit revealed that of 3,000 websites associated with online pharmacies suspected of selling illicit medicines and medical devices, around 1,700 contained cyber threats, especially phishing and spamming malware.
Health Canada suggests the following:
• Do not buy or use COVID-19 vaccines sold on the internet or from unauthorized sources as they are counterfeit, may pose risks to health, and are ineffective at protecting an individual from the COVID-19 virus.
• The only way to access safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines is through clinics organized or endorsed by your local public health authority, in collaboration with Canada’s federal, provincial and territorial governments.
• Consult a healthcare professional if you have any concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine.
• Report any information on the sale or advertising of potential counterfeit COVID-19 vaccines to Health Canada
• Visit reliable and trusted sources of information, like the Government of Canada’s websites Canada.ca/vaccines and Canada.ca/coronavirus, and your local public health authority’s website.
• Report any health product adverse events to Health Canada