Chinese police have arrested more than 80 people who were making counterfeit Covid-19 vaccines, state media said, as China rushes to inoculate millions ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday.
The gang put salt water in vials and sold them as Covid-19 vaccines in an operation that had been going on since last September, according to the Xinhua news agency.
Police raided several locations in Beijing and several cities in the eastern provinces of Jiangsu and Shandong, seizing “more than 3,000 fake Covid-19 vaccines on the spot”, Xinhua said.
The number of vaccines sold has not been made public, but police have tracked down where the vaccines ended up, he said.
China has rushed to develop local shots and aims to vaccinate 50 million people before the start of the Lunar New Year in mid-February.
The holidays normally spark a travel rush with hundreds of millions crossing the country – although authorities are encouraging people to stay home this year with a mix of restrictions and incentives.
As China steps up its vaccination campaign, authorities have repeatedly assured the public of the safety and efficacy of the vaccine, although they have not released any detailed clinical trial data.
The vaccine from state-owned Sinopharm was approved by Chinese regulators for general use in December.
Since the virus emerged in 2019, China has charged thousands of people with crimes related to the pandemic, including spreading “rumours”, covering up an infection and failing to follow guidelines.
The country is also no stranger to vaccine scandals.
In 2018, leading vaccine maker Changsheng Bio-Technology was fined $1.3 billion after regulators found its vaccines were substandard, significantly damaging public confidence in the vaccine. vaccines at the time.