As many as 30 per cent of these black-market offerings might be legitimate, culled from leftover stock, according to a report published on 4 March by the cybersecurity firm Kaspersky.
Kaspersky experts found online marketplace ads for all three major vaccines (from Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca). The asking price ranged from $250 to $1,200, averaging about $500 per dose, and sellers almost always requested payment in bitcoin, a cryptocurrency that is difficult to track. There was also an array of counterfeit vaccine offerings from unverified sources, as well as ads requesting ‘donations’ instead of payments.
Many sellers had completed hundreds of sales
The researchers were able to find that most of the sellers were located in France, Germany, the UK, and the US, and many had completed hundreds of vaccine sale transactions. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has warned member states that getting supplies of Covid-19 vaccines from illicit trade entails considerable risks for human health.
“I’ve heard of incidents and that doses have been offered,” von der Leyen confirmed to a press conference, adding that there is a growing number of cases of fraud and fraud attempts related to the vaccines.
She said the Commission is fighting this trend, supporting the efforts of the European anti-fraud office OLAF, which is currently investigating and giving member states advice on how to identify vaccine-related fraud. “Our goal is to bring [fraudsters] to justice and to really go in-depth in these matters,” von der Leyen said.
Despite such setbacks on a broader scale, vaccination rollout efforts across the world are speeding up, with hopes that the vaccine could help to restart international travel by May.