$1,000 a shot: Fake Pfizer COVID vaccines available globally as desperation grows in countries without access

Credit: ACMA
Credit: ACMA

Pfizer says it has identified in Mexico and Poland the first confirmed instances of counterfeit versions of the Covid-19 vaccine it developed with BioNTech, the latest attempt by criminals trying to exploit the world-wide vaccination campaign.

About 80 people at a clinic in Mexico received a fake vaccine going for about $1,000 a dose, though they don’t appear to have been physically harmed. The vials, found in beach-style beer coolers, had different lot numbers than those sent to the state, and a wrong expiration date, said Dr. Manuel de la O Cavazos, the health secretary of Nuevo León state.

Polish authorities said no one there had received the counterfeit vaccine, which was seized at a man’s apartment.


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The findings are the latest in an effort between law enforcement and drugmakers such as Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson to stem criminal activity related to the Covid-19 vaccines. The global rollout of shots has provided criminals a fresh opportunity to take advantage of unsuspecting people.

“Everybody on the planet needs it. Many are desperate for it,” said Lev Kubiak, Pfizer’s world head of security. “We have a very limited supply, a supply that will increase as we ramp up and other companies enter the vaccine space. In the interim, there is a perfect opportunity for criminals.”

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