In a global alert issued on Thursday, INTERPOL said South African authorities have seized some 400 ampoules – equivalent to about 2,400 doses – containing fake vaccines at a warehouse outside Johannesburg.
Law enforcement officers also recovered a large quantity of fake face masks and arrested three Chinese nationals and a Zambian national, according to the alert.
A similar operation netted some 80 suspects in China after the police raided the manufacturing premises and seized more than 3,000 fake vaccines on the scene.
Interpol’s secretary-general Jürgen Stock warned that the discovery of the network was “only the tip of the iceberg” of coronavirus vaccine-related crime.
“Whilst we welcome this result, this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to COVID-19 vaccine related crime,” Stock said.
Interpol said investigations are continuing, and in addition to the arrests in South Africa and China, it is also receiving additional reports of fake vaccine distribution and scam attempts targeting health bodies, such as nursing homes.