Chinese police have made around 80 arrests linked to a fake vaccination scheme in which participants reportedly marketed syringes filled with saline — essentially saltwater — as coronavirus vaccines and sold them for extortionate profits, state news outlet Xinhua reported Monday.
Authorities reportedly seized 3,000 fake vaccines across Beijing, Jiangsu, and Shandong on the eastern coast of the country.
Local police in the three affected provinces cooperated with national law enforcement in identifying the fake vaccine production centers and locating the individual “doses” already in circulation, Xinhua claimed. The report asserted that the scam had been ongoing since at least September of 2020. Authorities believe they have collected all the existing fakes as well.
State media outlet Global Times reported that the ringleaders may have been planning to export the fakes to other countries, citing an anonymous source. The distribution of fakes appears to have remained confined to China at the time of the arrests.
While China, the origin country of the virus, vowed to crack down on vaccine-related crimes, the Chinese people have other reasons to be wary of the coronavirus vaccines in the country, including the domestic candidates.
In early January, live testing in Brazil revealed the Chinese-manufactured “Coronavac” vaccine candidate to be only 50 percent effective against the virus, well below the 78 percent figure developers originally claimed. The Global Times, however, promptly declared Sinovac was “good enough” for dealing with the majority of cases.
Despite the disappointing results, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, an ostensibly anti-China figure, bowed to internal pressure and concluded a deal with the communist regime to purchase large quantities of the inefficient product from manufacturer Sinovac.
While the Chinese vaccine meets the bare minimum figure of 50 percent effectiveness for approval from the World Health Organization (W.H.O.), it remains a far ways behind American vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, the first of which has become the subject of a smear campaign from the Chinese media.
Apart from fake vaccine crimes, woefully inefficient domestic products, and an intense campaign against foreign coronavirus treatments, citizens of the Chinese state retain memory of a major scandal involving 1 million faulty vaccines a few years ago.
In 2018, Chinese authorities discovered that domestic vaccine manufacturer Changsheng Biotechnology had produced roughly half a million substandard vaccines intended for children while another firm had distributed approximately 400,000 comparably defective doses, bringing the total number to nearly 1 million.
The overwhelming majority of the defectives vaccines went to Shangdong province, a coastal territory to the south of Beijing that also was one of the main distribution areas for 2021’s fake vaccination scam.
President Xi Jinping ordered a “thorough investigation” and authorities ultimately arrested 15 Changsheng executives including company chairwoman Gao Junfang, formerly known as the “vaccine queen.” The judicial action failed to quash public outrage, however.
China, the coronavirus’s home country, has faced a devastating outbreak since at least 2019, though many Chinese figures remain adamant that the virus originated in the United States.
Nevertheless, the country has launched an aggressive vaccination campaign and has reportedly administered 24 million doses so far, the South China Morning Post reported. The communist state hopes to reach the 50 million mark before the end of the month.