How To Spot A Fake COVID-19 Vaccine

With the promise of COVID-19 vaccines to start circulating throughout the United States within the next few weeks, national and international agencies are advising citizens to beware of fake vaccines. In recent days, both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Interpol, the international crime police organization, issued warnings against the potential of fake COVID-19 vaccines appearing on the market.

The FDA emphasizes that currently they have not approved nor authorized the use of any COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S. (via FDA). In fact, the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee is set to meet on December 10th to discuss emergency use authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and then again on December 17th to discuss the authorization of the Moderna Inc. COVID-19 vaccine.

The FDA's warning addressed their concern that products are being pushed by people and companies which are falsely and misleadingly claiming to be effective in protecting against or even treating the novel coronavirus, all to make a profit. In addition to potentially hurting Americans, the FDA is worried that sinister and deceptively marketed unauthorized products may lead citizens to delay or completely stop necessary, appropriate, and evidence-based medical treatment. 

How can you tell if your vaccine is fake? Basically, if you can buy it yourself online or you're not getting it through your doctor or another approved immunization location, you'll definitely want to avoid it.

INTERPOL issues warning against fake COVID-19 vaccines

The FDA is not alone in issuing warnings — last week Interpol released a global alert to law enforcement of 194 member countries, warning that organized crime networks may take advantage of pandemic fears and take aim at COVID-19 vaccines online as well as in person. The alert discusses "potential criminal activity in relation to the falsification, theft and illegal advertising of COVID-19 and flu vaccines." These aren't unprecedented warnings either — earlier this year the FDA found companies and individuals selling unauthorized fraudulent COVID-19 test kits online.

Reputable organizations worldwide, like the FDA, are actively monitoring for fraudulent COVID-19 products claiming to help in diagnosis, prevention, or treatment. Their authority ranges from sending warning letters to enforcing ports of entry, in an attempt to block fraudulent products from crossing our borders.

The FDA and Interpol also caution citizens to be wary of products claiming to be "miracle cures." Benjamin Fenton, a healthcare attorney, told Healthline, "My advice is to always be suspicious, and if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. Taking anything that is not FDA-approved can lead to extreme outcomes, including death."

While the entire world is eager to get COVID-19 vaccinations underway, officials are urging the public to be cautious. Legitimate and approved vaccines will be administered by your regular healthcare providers, emergency rooms, or locally designated locations and will not be available for individual purchasing online. If you think you have found a potential scam online or in person, contact your local authorities and health department to ensure the safety and well-being of the general public.