US drug maker Pfizer confirmed Wednesday that suspect doses of its seized coronavirus vaccine in Mexico and Poland were fake, with doses going for as much as $ 1,000 per shot, according to US media.
At a clinic in Mexico about 80 people received fake doses of the drug, which appeared to be physically harmless, though they offered no protection against the potentially deadly disease raiding the country, says a report in the Wall Street Journal.
The vials were found in beer coolers and were initially identified by fake lot numbers and expiration dates, Mexican officials said.
The fluid in the vials seized in Poland was a cosmetic substance, believed to be anti-wrinkle cream, the company said.
“We are aware that there will be an increase in the incidence of fraud, hoax and other illegal activity in this type of environment – driven by the ease and convenience of e-commerce and anonymity – vaccines and treatments for Covid-19,” a spokesman for Pfizer told ABC News.
In February, health authorities in the northern Mexican state of Nuevo warned Leon about “clandestine” sales of “alleged Covid vaccines” urging people not to take them.
In March, the World Health Organization also warned of “fake” Pfizer vaccines found in Mexico and warned that the shots “may still be in circulation in the region.”
Pfizer tested the fake vials and found that they did not contain the two-shot vaccine he developed with BioNTech.
Lev Kubiak, Pfizer’s head of global security, said the desperate need and shortfall in vaccines had led to the scams.
“We have a very limited supply, a supply that will increase as we ramp up and other companies enter the vaccine space. Meanwhile, there is a perfect opportunity for criminals,” he told the Wall Street Journal.
Mexico is also examining a shipment of 6,000 doses of what is alleged to be a Russian Sputnik vaccine seized on a private plane heading for Honduras last month, the newspaper said.