Beijing, February 3
China has arrested over 80 people for smuggling and supplying counterfeit COVID-19 vaccines, amid reports that some of the jabs have already made their way to Africa, the official media has reported.
Apart from the arrests, 3,000 doses of the fake vaccines were confiscated from the accused in a special drive that China has carried out to curb vaccine-related crimes, the Global Times reported on Tuesday.
The raids were carried out in a joint action by police in Beijing and East China’s Jiangsu and Shandong provinces, among other regions. The criminal activity was scattered across multiple cities, the report said.
The suspects were profiting from the illegal manufacture and sale of the vaccines since September last year, the report added.
The accused made the counterfeit vaccines by injecting saline into pre-filled syringes, the newspaper said, adding that the “doses” were being sold for high prices.
The smugglers are believed to have smuggled the fake vaccines into Africa, although it is not known how they managed to leave the country, the report said.
Asked about the reports of fake vaccines in circulation, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a media briefing on Tuesday that China will take effective measures to fight against the counterfeit vaccines and their smuggling.
He said cooperation with other countries would be needed to prevent such criminal activities.
The captured suspects might have planned to send vaccines abroad, the report said. The police have multiple times checked with vaccine manufacturers to confirm the vaccines illegally sold in markets were the fake ones produced by the suspects.
In early January, Japanese media had reported that smuggled Chinese vaccines were in circulation in the country. However, the reports were slammed by the Chinese Embassy to Japan as “unverified and misleading”.
China is presently conducting clinical trials of 16 COVID-19 vaccines, seven of which have entered phase three trials and one has conditionally hit the market, according to Wu Yuanbin, an official with the Ministry of Science and Technology.
The deadly coronavirus emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019 and then spread across the world and became a pandemic.
According to Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 tracker, over 2,240,00 people have died and more than 103,500,000 people have been hit by the coronavirus.
China is vaccinating people at home with two vaccines and sending the same doses abroad. The Chinese government has given conditional approval to the Sinopharm vaccine, even as the results of the third trial is yet to be released.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) is reviewing the trials of both the vaccines. China said 46 countries so far have expressed their desire to import the locally-made vaccines.
China is yet to release the date of the phase three trials of its vaccines. When asked about it, Wang said many of the Chinese vaccine candidates are in phase three clinical trials overseas.
“Judging from the published phase three clinical trial data so far the Chinese vaccines are effective and safe”, he said, adding that the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, Brazil and other countries have approved the use of Chinese vaccines.
“These are tests to the safety and effectiveness of our vaccines”, he said. — PTI