Johannesburg, March 12
The South African government is concerned about fake COVID-19 vaccines allegedly being sold privately in the black market.
Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize said this in response to a question in Parliament on Wednesday.
“We have noted that of late there has been the existence of reports of fake vaccines found in South Africa. This was brought to our attention by the South Africana Police Services (SAPS) working with Interpol and we would like to indicate that it’s a very worrying issue,” Mkhize said.
The minister gave an assurance that an inter-ministerial committee led by Deputy President David Mabuza was looking at how to deal with this, even while the police were on high alert about the issue.
Earlier, SAPS cautioned South Africans to be wary of people selling counterfeit COVID-19 vaccines after a raid on a warehouse near Johannesburg following notice from Interpol.
Nearly 3,000 doses of the fake vaccine as well as R 6 million worth of fake medical face masks were seized in the raid. Three Chinese nationals and a Zambian national were arrested on the scene.
“Since COVID-19 reached the shores of SA, the government has adopted an integrated, multidisciplinary law enforcement approach,” national police spokesperson Brig Vish Naidoo was quoted as saying in an Interpol statement.
“This, together with our association with counterparts from all Interpol member countries, is proving to be very effective as we have seen in the arrests for foreign nationals attempting to peddle fake vaccines to unsuspecting people within South Africa,” Naidoo added.
Mkhize said COVID-19 vaccines were not for sale in the country.
“We want to encourage our people to be aware that the vaccines are free at the point of administration. In the rest of the continent, this matter has also been taken up quite seriously and the governments in those countries are working with manufacturers to limit these particular black markets.
“We hope we will always be a step ahead of the black market and fake vaccine syndicates,” Mkhize said as he highlighted that the government was the sole purchaser of vaccines.
He said their procurement process is to ensure that there is a very short line between the purchaser and the producers, so they are buying directly from the manufacturers even though there are many people in between who have offered to sell the vaccines.
“But because we have a direct relationship with the manufacturers, we are able to do so. That is how we are able to limit the number of vaccines that can come through outside the lines that the government has designated,” the minister said.
Mkhize said even the private sector had agreed that COVID-19 vaccines would only be accessed through governments’ procurement processes. —PTI