WHO warns about fake COVID-19 vaccines on the dark web

The World Health Organization on Friday issued a warning about counterfeit and stolen COVID-19 vaccines being sold on the dark web.  

Fake vaccination certificates are also being sold, as well as fake negative tests, aimed at those traveling abroad.  

The WHO is “aware of vaccines being diverted and reintroduced into the supply chain, with no guarantee that [the] cold chain has been maintained,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus during a press conference.  


Spiking demand for the COVID-19 vaccine has met inconsistent availability, with scams emerging as a seemingly inevitable result.    

The WHO said several ministries of health and regulatory agencies around the world had received suspicious offers to supply vaccines, along with reports of “criminal groups” reusing empty vaccine vials.

“We urge the secure disposal or destruction of used and empty vaccine vials to prevent them from being reused by criminal groups,” said Ghebreyesus.

According to the BBC, doses of AstraZeneca, Sputnik, Sinipharm and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are being offered for prices between $500 and $750 on the dark web.  

Researchers at the cybersecurity company Check Point say they’ve seen a tripling in vaccine advertisements since January, with some sellers offering next-day delivery.  

Other forums are advertising fake negative COVID-19 tests and forged vaccination cards for $150.  

The WHO on Friday also alerted the public to a falsified vaccine detected in Mexico in February, which had been administered to patients outside of authorized vaccination programs.  

“Falsified COVID-19 vaccines pose a serious risk to global public health and place an additional burden on vulnerable populations and health systems. It is important to identify and remove these from circulation,” said the agency in a statement.  


Experts have warned about the security risks engendered by the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, including issues with the distribution pipeline and increased phishing dangers.  

Last month, Invistics founder and CEO Tom Knight told Healthcare IT News that many instances of drug diversion are never detected, with a lack of oversight contributing to ease of potential theft.  

“The fragmented controls are definitely a challenge and will lead to more diversion,” said Knight.  


“We urge all people not to buy vaccines outside government-run vaccination programs,” said Ghebreyesus. “Any vaccine outside these programs may be substandard or falsified, with the potential to cause serious harm.”


Kat Jercich is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Twitter: @kjercich
Email: kjercich@himss.org
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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