The combination of people desperate for coronavirus vaccines and worldwide shortages has created an opportunity that criminals are eagerly exploiting, Pfizer warns. The company says it has tested vials seized by investigators in Mexico and Poland and confirmed that phony Pfizer vaccines were involved in both cases, the Wall Street Journal reports. In Mexico, around 80 people who paid $1,000 a dose were injected with distilled water, authorities say. In the Polish case, the vials seized in a man's apartment apparently contained an anti-wrinkle treatment. Authorities say the man was arrested before he distributed any counterfeit doses.
Pfizer says the two cases are the first confirmed instances of counterfeit versions of its vaccines being offered. Drug security expert Tony Pelli tells the Journal that crooks are using forgeries because tight security makes it very difficult to steal legitimate vaccines. "With counterfeits, you kind of can just show up, and say, 'Here's COVID vaccines, we’ve got some, don't ask how,' and start distributing them," Pelli says. A Pfizer spokesperson tells the Hill that the company is working to "reduce the risk of illicit COVID-19 vaccine activity." The company says "no legitimate vaccine is sold online." American authorities say numerous websites claiming to sell vaccine doses have been shut down, but no counterfeit vaccines have been detected in the US yet. (Read more coronavirus vaccine stories.)