In a press release on the 4th of December 2020, the Europol made mention of a high likelihood of counterfeit vaccines infiltrating the market as the world races to find a lasting solution to the COVID-19 pandemic through vaccines.
This warning by Europol came in even as the European Medicines Agency (EMA) announced that it was about to conclude the evaluation of its first conditional marketing application for COVID-19.
Earlier in April of 2020, the Europol had projected that there would be both online and offline network of counterfeiters who would be looking to profit from the sale of fake COVID vaccines. The European police body envisaged that organised crime coordinators would work effortlessly to adapt to blend into the market with genuine vaccines and in a bid to service a situation that arises with high demand.
Public Health Risk of Counterfeit COVID-19 Vaccines
It is believed that the advent of the COVID has caused a proportional increase in the demand for influenza treatments, as such, the resultant high demand is causing people to look elsewhere for vaccines.
Additionally, the entry of original vaccines into the market has seen some counterfeit versions being circulated rapidly. Europol spokesperson, Jan Op Gen Oorth, told DW back in December 2020 that the availability of vaccines would likely see high demand, and this would make it a fertile space for criminal activities.
It is expected that COVID-19 vaccine counterfeiters would be selling falsified versions on illicit markets and even cross into legal markets to carry out their nefarious activities.
Criminals would go beyond selling fakes to selling substandard vaccines that might have fallen out from the cold chain.
The Global Problem of Fake Medications and Vaccines
Even though the issue of fake medication is believed to be primarily a developing world problem, the current coronavirus epidemic and its resultant vaccines has however shown industry folks that the problem is so easily a global one.
As the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Acting Team Lead for Incidents, Pernette Bourdillon Esteve, rightly puts it, “no country is untouched by substandard and falsified medical products.”
It is imperative that steps are actively taken to fight vaccine counterfeiters, as fakes can lead to the erosion of public trust and faith, as some are already being cautious about administering it.
According to a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation Development (OECD), the global counterfeit market crossed the $4.4 billion mark way back in 2016; it is a lucrative field for criminals who would stop at nothing to see to it that their business thrives. It is therefore necessary that industry players and regulators stay a couple of steps ahead of the fake medication criminal syndicate, and one sure way to do this is through the use of applicable technology.
Anti-Counterfeit Tech for COVID Vaccines
With the medicine and pharmaceutical industry being prone to falsifications, it has adapted itself to the use of anti-counterfeit technologies which have proven to be potent solutions in seeing to it that the war on counterfeits is taken head-on.
There are a number of anti-counterfeit technologies that have helped in the combat against fake drugs, but the fight remains an arduous one as the fake medication network keeps on adapting their processes and operations. It is for this reason that Cypheme has come up with its unique fingerprint like label solution called noise print.
Cypheme’s noise print labels cannot be copied or replicated; every label has a unique artificial intelligence created pattern that is developed based on the unique microstructure of the product it is to be used on. In 2020 alone, the technology helped to eliminate about 100,000 fake products and saved about 15,000 lives around the world. It is thus a no-brainer that this technology is one which is ready-made to help address the issues of counterfeits relative to COVID-19 vaccines.