Darknet drug dealers peddling Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine

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Vaccines -FDA-image
Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

Drug dealers on the darknet are taking advantage of the news that the United Kingdom approved the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, touted as a symbolic milestone in the fight against the pandemic.

Immediately after the good news, drug dealers started peddling the “Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine” on the darknet, according to VICE World News. It found that multiple vendors on the darknet appeared to be selling doses of the vaccine to global customers for as much as USD$1,300 each.

“The doses of the COVID-19 vaccine has [sic] been developed by Pfizer and BioNTec,” the product description reads. “We can deliver in any country.”

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The darknet drug dealers claiming to be pharmacists told the media outlet that they obtained the vaccine through government agencies and already sold it to multiple customers. One claimed to have a stockpile of about 560 doses.

Dr. Barbara Mintzes, associate professor at the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre and School of Pharmacy, called on consumers to be more careful.

“There are so many red flags here, it’s hard to know where to start,” she said. “Even just on the regular Internet, there’s that whole question of if a person is buying a prescription medicine or something like a vaccine, are they actually getting what they think they’re getting? There’s absolutely no assurance.”

Mintzes was puzzled how sellers claim to be able to ship the COVID-19 vaccines.

“This is a particularly odd one,” Mintzes added, “in the sense that the vaccine needs to be kept at minus-70 degrees centigrade. And this is before it has even been rolled out for use in the UK.”

Mintzes said a vial of Pfizer isn’t a type of drug that can be shipped out in the post. She added that it remains unclear how sellers or “pharmacists” are able to acquire the drugs.

Regulators must take action against darknet peddlers of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine

Mintzes said there are ethical and public health issues arise from the availability of COVID-19 vaccines online even if the “Pfizer vaccines” being sold on darknet marketplaces are proven to be authentic.

“I don’t know how many people would actually be going on to the dark web to buy vaccines, but it does sound to me like the kind of thing that actually needs a regulatory response. If it’s a fraudulent activity because they’re not really selling the vaccine at all, then that’s one kind of regulatory response; if they’re actually selling the vaccine, as a pharmacist, then there’s a whole bunch of levels in which this is an unethical and criminal activity.”

The Pfizer–BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is poised to be rolled out in the U.K. next week, wherein medical workers and senior citizens in care homes set to become the first recipients.

The British government is the first to formally approve the U.S.-German vaccine for widespread use. This means the country will be one of the first nations to begin vaccinating its population.

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