In the middle of news that some of the jabs have already found their way to Africa, China has detained over 80 people for importing and selling fake COVID-19 vaccines, the official media announced on Tuesday.
The Global Times announced that, apart from the arrests, 3,000 doses of the bogus vaccines were seized from the accused in a special drive China has carried out to curb vaccine-related crimes.
The raids were carried out by police in the Jiangsu and Shandong provinces of Beijing and East China, among other areas, as part of a joint operation. The illegal activity was spread over many towns, the report said.
Since September last year, the suspects have been profiting from the illicit production and selling of vaccines, the study said.
By injecting saline into pre-filled syringes, the accused made the counterfeit vaccines, the newspaper said, adding that the’ doses’ were being sold at high prices.
It is suspected that smugglers have smuggled the fake vaccines into Africa, although it is uncertain how they have managed to leave the region, the report said.
Asked about rumours of fake vaccines in circulation, Wang Wenbin, spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry, told a media briefing on Tuesday that China will take effective steps to combat the smuggling of counterfeit vaccines.
He said there will be a need for collaboration with other countries in order to deter such illegal activities.
The suspects arrested may have intended to send vaccines overseas, the study said. The police have checked with vaccine producers several times to ensure that the fake ones created by the suspects were the vaccines illegally sold in markets.
Japanese media claimed in early January that smuggled Chinese vaccines were in circulation in the region. The reports were, however, slammed as’ unverified and misleading’ by the Chinese Embassy in Japan.
According to Wu Yuanbin, an official with the Ministry of Science and Technology, China is currently performing clinical trials of 16 COVID-19 vaccines, seven of which have reached phase three trials and one has conditionally hit the market.
In December 2019, the lethal coronavirus originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan and then spread across the world and became a pandemic.
About 2,240,00 people have died and over 103,500,000 people have been infected by the coronavirus, according to the Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 tracker.
China vaccinates people with two vaccines at home and sends the same doses overseas. The Chinese government has granted the Sinopharm vaccine conditional approval, even though the findings of the third trial have not yet been released.
Trials of all vaccines are being reviewed by the World Health Organization (WHO). China has said that 46 countries have so far expressed a willingness to import locally manufactured vaccines.
The date of the phase three trials of its vaccines has yet to be announced by China. When asked about it, Wang said many of the candidates for the Chinese vaccine are overseas in phase three clinical trials.
“Judging from the published phase three clinical trial data so far, the Chinese vaccines are effective and safe,” he said, adding that the use of Chinese vaccines has been approved by the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, Brazil and other countries.