While governments around the world are working on plans to distribute vaccines for COVID-19, criminal organizations are seeking to profit off of the life-saving vaccinations.
Interpol has issued an "orange notice," warning its 194 member countries to be on the lookout for "criminal activity in relation to the falsification, theft and illegal advertising of COVID-19 and flu vaccines."
"As governments are preparing to roll out vaccines, criminal organizations are planning to infiltrate or disrupt supply chains," Interpol warned.
When the vaccines are approved, they will go to vulnerable populations and healthcare and frontline workers first, forcing many people to wait to get vaccinated. That creates an opportunity for criminal organizations to step in.
The international police agency said that criminals may try to peddle false vaccines, which will be short supply once they are approved for distribution.
"Criminal networks will also be targeting unsuspecting members of the public via fake websites and false cures, which could pose a significant risk to their health, even their lives," said Interpol Secretary-General Jürgen Stock. "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, which is why INTERPOL has issued this global warning."
Last month, the agency warned that criminal enterprises could try to steal legitimate vaccines and sell them to people who must wait to get vaccinated.
"High demand combined with a limited supply will make COVID-19 vaccines the equivalent of liquid gold to organized crime networks as soon as one is available," Interpol said in November.
The United Kingdom recently approved Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine and is expected to start rolling it out in the coming weeks. The Food and Drug Administration is reviewing Pfizer's vaccine, along with one developed by Moderna.
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