Criminal gangs will likely attempt to get their hands on supplies of new Covid-19 vaccines, international police organization Interpol warned, potentially disrupting supplies of the crucial shots as they become available.
The agency issued a global orange notice—which it describes as a serious and imminent threat to public safety—to its 194 members, calling the vaccines “liquid gold,” and warned counterfeit vaccines or coronavirus tests could become a growing problem as international travel gradually resumes in the months to come.
“As governments are preparing to roll out vaccines, criminal organizations are planning to infiltrate or disrupt supply chains,” Interpol Secretary-General Jürgen Stock said late Wednesday. “It is essential that law enforcement is as prepared as possible for what will be an onslaught of all types of criminal activity linked to the Covid-19 vaccine.”
Interpol issued the warning after the U.K. became the first country to grant emergency-use authorization for a vaccine. Developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE , rollout could start next week. Regulators in the U.S. and other countries are now evaluating the new two-shot vaccine and other candidates before authorizing them for distribution. Over 3,000 people were reported to have died from Covid-19 in the U.S. on Wednesday, the highest figure since the pandemic began. Pfizer has already begun shipping shots to distribution sites in anticipation of gaining approval from the Food and Drug Administration, which is planning to review the vaccine on Dec. 10 and could authorize its use soon after.
However, criminals would face the same logistical challenges as the drug companies in shipping and storing the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and another candidate produced by Moderna Inc.