MoH to keep close watch on black market vaccine

Only firms registered with the NPRA can bring in the highly anticipated vaccines

by AFIQ AZIZ / pic by BLOOMBERG

THE Ministry of Health (MoH) will not allow the black market peddling of fake Covid-19 vaccines as more bogus antidotes of the virus have killed more than 1.92 million people and are beginning to surface in Europe and the US.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba said although such vaccines are yet to reach our shores, enforcement is intact and only firms registered with the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA) can bring in the highly anticipated vaccines.

“Only the NPRA can approve any type of vaccine that comes into the country.

“Any vaccine which is not registered nor approved by the NPRA is prohibited and any act to bring it in is a crime,” Dr Adham said in a press conference after witnessing a signing ceremony of a memorandum of understanding between the MoH and Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC Malaysia) in Putrajaya yesterday.

Last week, CNN reported that the UK police are searching for a man who allegedly injected a 92-year-old woman with a fake Covid-19 vaccine and charged her £160 (RM874) for it.

The Intellectual Property Crime Unit of the City of London Police has appealed to the public for help in identifying the man, whom they said is suspected of fraudulently demanding payment to administer fake Covid-19 vaccines. According to the police, the suspect claimed that he was from the country’s National Health Service.

Last December, Interpol issued a global alert to law enforcements across its 194 member countries, warning them to prepare for organised crime networks targeting Covid-19 vaccines, both physically and online.

The Interpol Orange Notice outlines potential criminal activity in relation to the falsification, theft and illegal advertising of Covid-19 and flu vaccines, with the pandemic having already triggered unprecedented opportunistic and predatory criminal behaviour.

It also includes examples of crimes where individuals have been advertising, selling and administering fake vaccines.

As some Covid-19 vaccines come closer to approval and global distribution, ensuring the safety of the supply chain and identifying illicit websites selling fake products will be essential, said Interpol secretary general Jürgen Stock.

“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,” Stock said.

On Saturday, NBC News also reported that the Covid-19 vaccine could wind up on the black market, because of corruption in allowing those with powerful connections to get the vaccine first.

According to the report, the rollout of vaccines by the Trump administration has laid the ground-work for a scenario in which the rich and the politically connected are using their money and power to cut lines and get vaccinated before everyone else.

The report also noted that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo had already threatened to impose fines of up to US$1 million (RM4.04 million) and revoke the licences of doctors, nurses and others who do not follow state and federal vaccine distribution guidelines, which currently place a priority on inoculating frontline healthcare workers and nursing home residents.

The NBC report also stated that there have been cases in Miami of big hospital donors getting the first crack at the vaccine, while New York tycoons are flying their friends to Florida to get inoculated with doses earmarked for a retirement home.

Yesterday, Malaysia signed a deal to buy an additional 12.2 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines manufactured by the US and German drugmakers Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE.

The deal brings the total amount of the Pfizer vaccines procured by Malaysia to 25 million doses, enough to cover 39% of the population, which will be accepted throughout 2021.

Last Friday, NPRA approved the conditional registration of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines.

Meanwhile, Dr Adham announced that RHMC Malaysia — which is McDonald’s corporate and social responsibility arm — signed an agreement with the MoH to establish the third Ronald McDonald House in the country.

In the agreement, RMHC Malaysia will fund the conversion of Medi Hotel in Hospital Tunku Azizah, Kuala Lumpur, into a Ronald McDonald House — an accommodation facility for families of paediatric patients at the hospital.

The facility will be located at the 10th floor of the hospital’s parking complex, equipped with 20 family rooms and other necessities for occupants. It is expected to be completed by the second quarter of this year.


Read our earlier report

Black market vaccines will face the law