It’s a matter of time before COVID-19 vaccines hit the black market – BGR

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  • Police and health experts warn that the imminent rollout of coronavirus vaccines will spawn a black market, as demand will surge for the potentially life-saving drugs.
  • People with means could use various tricks to get vaccines early by abusing immunization guidelines to be bumped up higher on the list.
  • Interpol worries that organized crime groups could attempt to steal vaccines or create fakes to sell them to unsuspecting buyers who want to be immunized as quickly as possible.

The novel coronavirus pandemic reached an important milestone earlier this week. The UK drug regulator approved the Pfizer/BioNTech drug for use, and the US and European Union will soon follow. Moderna’s drug, which works just as well as the BioNTech vaccine, will probably get its own Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) soon as well. Millions of Americans will be inoculated by the end of December, with vaccines expected to be widely available to the general public in April. Until then, the CDC will have guidelines in place for ensuring that the drugs reach the people who are most at risk, including older people living in nursing homes and their caregivers, health care personnel, essential workers, and people suffering from other medical conditions that can lead to severe cases of COVID-19.

The supply issues will be resolved as manufacturing picks up in the early months of 2021, and as more vaccines are approved. The percentage of the population that refuses to take the vaccines will somewhat offset the supply issues. As some people will refuse vaccination, others will benefit in their stead. But while some are wary of coronavirus vaccines, many others want vaccines badly. People are already worried that a coronavirus vaccine black market is about to spawn. Many will try to buy their way to the front of the line, while organized crime groups might be planning to take advantage of the coronavirus vaccine frenzy.

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A report in Stat does a great job of explaining how the rich and privileged will find ways to skip the lines and get COVID-19 vaccines long before they should.

“There absolutely will be a black market,” New York University bioethicist Arthur Caplan told Stat. “Anything that’s seen as lifesaving, life-preserving, and that’s in short supply creates black markets.”

It all boils down to knowing the right people, usually health care providers that could bump you up the list. Vaccines like Pfizer’s will be tracked via GPS to ensure their safe delivery to distribution centers. But once they arrive in the hands of pharmacists and doctors, there might not be a way to verify that CDC recommendations are followed.

One easy way to get the vaccine early is to have a doctor exaggerate a medical condition that’s a risk factor for severe COVID-19 and death, Stat explains. It’s unlikely that those people administering the shots will actually verify everyone if they qualify once they’ve been given access.

Another way of skirting around the rules involves using the essential worker group. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) wanted to prioritize essential workers to help ensure that people of color, who can be hit the hardest by the virus, get early access. But white people in the financial services industry are also essential. It’s not just bank tellers who, like grocery store cashiers, face risks. It’s also people on exchanges, trading operations, and other retail banking employees. That’s not to say people working those jobs would abuse the rules. Just that vaccination rules can be bypassed with relative ease.

Having the right connections and bribes could also ensure vaccination supply to wealthy people who would not qualify for any early vaccination stages. And then some people might consider effectively stealing vaccines as they are in transit. That might be risky given the shipments will be tracked, but some people could still take on those risks.

It’s not just Stat that speculates that organized crime might be attracted by coronavirus vaccines and the potential of this black market. And there’s one other way from profiting from vaccines.

Interpol is already warning the world that the mob is watching. Organized crime will not just attempt to steal vaccine supply, but they might also manufacture fake vaccines to sell them to people looking to get a vaccine early.

“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,” Interpol Secretary General Jurgen Stock said, via Boston Herald. “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.”

“Be skeptical and be safe,” Interpol says, urging people to avoid procuring vaccines online from dubious websites. The Interpol’s alert is labeled orange, or “a serious and imminent threat to public safety.”

There’s one other threat for vaccines, one that was highlighted earlier this year. Hackers from Russia and China have been attempting to steal vaccine secrets. Finally, terrorists might want to get in the middle of vaccine distribution as well, devising attacks around the highly-coveted drugs that could involve lacing the doses with poison.

Chris Smith started writing about gadgets as a hobby, and before he knew it he was sharing his views on tech stuff with readers around the world. Whenever he’s not writing about gadgets he miserably fails to stay away from them, although he desperately tries. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

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