Officials warn of fake COVID-19 vaccines sold online amid impending rollout

Posted at 8:14 AM, Dec 11, 2020

SAN DIEGO — Since March, fake products promoted to cure or prevent COVID-19 have surged, according to one health care professional at UC-San Diego. Amid the rollout of vaccines for the coronavirus, his focus now is to prevent people from buying vaccines advertised as the real thing.

Dr. Timothy Mackey, an associate professor of Anesthesiology and Global Public Health at UC San Diego, said scammers are taking advantage of consumers seeking COVID-19 vaccines because there's a need, but not enough supply.

"We first saw herbal and nutritional supplements because people were trying to avoid the disease, then a bunch of testing kits we saw when people didn't have access to testing kits,” Mackey said.

And now, he said people browsing the web will see advertisements promoting fake COVID-19 vaccines.

"You cannot get any vaccine on the internet. If you're seeing a post that says you can buy it right away, it's not the real vaccine,” Mackey said.

Mackey says falling into a trap could cause serious harm to victims and those around them.

"Middle ground you get sterilized water, and it doesn't work. Then, you go out and risk transmission to others,” Mackey said.

He added that anyone trying to buy the vaccine online risks having their credit card information and identity stolen. Mackey also said that some fake vaccines could come with serious health risks.

"You get a product that's spoiled or a needle not sterile, and you get another disease or something that's toxic for your body," he said.

Mackey said the bottom line is the vaccine will not be widely available online anytime soon.

"The vaccine will only be available in registered healthcare facilities and only a few that are specifically validated to distribute the vaccine. It'll be a slow roll out,” he said.

He recommends that anyone looking for official information regarding vaccine distributions should visit government sites that end with ".gov".

"The internet seems like a quick fix but it's not for vaccines," Mackey said. "Vaccines are highly regulated and controlled. Please wait and they will come but don't make the mistake of buying online."

This story was originally published by Vanessa Paz on KGTV in San Diego.