The man, who Chinese authorities have identified only by the name “Kong,” led a fake vaccine ring based around Beijing and the provinces of Jiangsu and Shandong to the south of the Chinese capital. The group made over 18 million yuan ($2.78 million) by putting either saline solution or mineral water into containers made to look like how real coronavirus medication would be packed.
This operation has reportedly been going on since August last year, but Chinese authorities have only released the details of operations from November onwards.
Chinese authorities said Kong sold around 2,000 fake vaccines in November for 1.04 million yuan ($161,000) to another individual who resold them at a higher price. Of those 2,000 vaccines, around 600 were shipped to Hong Kong before they were sent overseas. No details have been provided regarding which country they were sent to.
Kong stored another 1,400 fake coronavirus vaccines in Hong Kong and southern China. By December, officials report that around 200 people had been jabbed with 500 doses of the fake vaccine.
According to an official statement released on Wednesday, Feb. 17, the suspects were arrested last Christmas Day. Despite the fact that most of the cases surfaced last year, the Chinese Communist Party waited until this week to release new details regarding the incident.
This news came as a shipment of Chinese-made COVID-19 vaccines arrived in Hungary on Tuesday morning. This made it the first country in the European Union to receive a vaccine made by the state-owned pharmaceutical company, Sinopharm.
“China has already reported the situation to the relevant countries,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin at a daily briefing.
“The Chinese government highly values vaccine safety and will continue to take efforts to strictly prosecute any counterfeits, fake sales and illegal business, and other related actions that involve vaccines,” he added. “At the same time, China will strengthen our law enforcement cooperation with the relevant countries, to earnestly prevent the spread of this type of illegal and criminal action.”
Spread of fake vaccines undermines confidence in CCP’s vaccine rollout
Kong is among 70 other people who have been arrested for committing similar crimes. It is unclear how many of the 70 individuals were members of Kong’s fake vaccine ring.
According to court rulings, Kong’s vaccines were sold on the basis that they were acquired through “internal channels” within genuine manufacturers.
Kong and his accomplices would also go to hospitals to sell the fake coronavirus vaccines at very inflated prices. At other times, they would hire “village doctors” or have one of their members pose as a healthcare worker and conduct “vaccination programs,” jabbing people with the fake doses in their homes and cars.
China’s highest investigative and prosecutorial body, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, urged regional agencies to cooperate with the police and national communist authorities to curb any further attempts by criminal organizations to sell fake coronavirus vaccines.
The pro-CCP tabloid Global Times claimed that the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) checked with vaccine manufacturers several times to make sure that the products Kong and the other suspects illegally sold were fake and did not come from any Chinese pharmaceutical company.
The MPS also launched a campaign to clamp down on the production and sale of fake coronavirus vaccines. The CCP is concerned that the fake shots could undermine confidence in the country’s own vaccine rollout, which is already off to a very bumpy start. (Related: Shanghai district residents refuse to take Chinese-made coronavirus vaccine.)
The communist government wanted to provide 100 million shots before the Lunar New Year on Friday, Feb. 12, but the country fell far short of its intended target, only being able to give people around 40.52 million doses.
Because of this, the CCP announced that it has ramped up production of domestically-made vaccines from Sinopharm and another state-owned pharmaceutical corporation, Sinovac.
China has a long history of scandals regarding vaccines resulting from improper business practices as well as manufacturing issues. Back in 2016, police arrested several people for running a criminal enterprise that sold millions of improperly stored vaccines. Confidence in domestically-manufactured vaccines has fallen since that incident.
Learn more about the controversies surrounding vaccines made in China, the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union and other places by reading the latest articles at Vaccines.news.