THE police in China have broken up a counterfeiting ring that they say manufactured and sold more than 3,000 fake coronavirus vaccines across the country, Xinhua, China’s state-run news agency, reported on Monday.
More than 80 suspects have been arrested in the provinces of Jiangsu and Shandong, in the city of Beijing and in other places, Xinhua said.
According to the agency, the police said that the main suspect, a person surnamed Kong, had been injecting saline into vials and selling them as coronavirus vaccines since September.
“The manufacturing and selling of fake vaccines are crimes of a vile nature and can cause serious harm,” Xinhua said. It added that the police were urging members of the public to get vaccinated “through the regular channels to avoid being deceived.”
The arrests began with an order from the Ministry of Public Security to crack down on vaccine-related crimes. Late last year, the demand for Covid-19 vaccines in China was so high that it inspired a cottage industry of scalpers who charged as much as $1,500 for an appointment.
The government is also wary of having to deal with the possible political fallout from another vaccine scandal. In recent years, reports that Chinese companies have fabricated data about their vaccines or made inoculations that have sickened infants have rattled public confidence in domestic vaccines, even though they have been proved safe. Many well-off parents shun them in favour of their Western counterparts.
Unlike many other countries, China has not signalled that it plans to vaccinate its entire population of 1.4 billion people. It has vaccinated about 24 million people, mostly essential workers, about half of its target of inoculating 50 million people by Feb. 12, the start of the Lunar New Year.