Authorities have seized around 2400 doses of fake Covid-19 vaccines from a warehouse in Germiston, east of Johannesburg, after a global alert issued by Interpol.
Police also recovered fake 3M masks and arrested three Chinese nationals and a Zambian national, according to Interpol.
“Whilst we welcome this result, this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Covid-19 vaccine related crime,” said Interpol secretary-general Jürgen Stock.
“Following our warning that criminals would target the distribution of Covid-19 vaccines, both on and offline, Interpol continues to provide its full support to national authorities working to protect the health and safety of their citizens.”
South African Police Service (Saps) national spokesperson Vish Naidoo said their collaboration with other law-enforcement agencies across the world was proving to be effective.
“Since Covid-19 reached the shores of South Africa, the government has adopted an integrated multi-disciplinary law enforcement approach.
“This, together with our association with counterparts from all Interpol member countries, is proving to be very effective as we have seen in the arrests for foreign nationals attempting to peddle fake vaccines to unsuspecting people within South Africa,” said Naidoo.
Interpol has also received reports of fake vaccine distribution and scam attempts targeting healthcare centres, such as nursing homes.
Last month, Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize assured South Africans that government would only procure Covid-19 vaccines from reputable vaccine manufacturers globally.
“We will not buy fake vaccines. We’ll buy the real stuff from authenticated sources [and] test them to make sure that with everything, we can produce a certificate of analysis that can tell us what’s in it,” Mkhize said.
Additional reporting by Thapelo Lekabe