Australia’s law enforcement agencies and drugs supply chain are being urged to step up investment in anti-counterfeiting measures before the trade in fake Covid 19 vaccines spirals out of control.
The advice from the International Hologram Manufacturers Association (IHMA) follows reports* of fake Covid-19 vaccines being sold by dark web criminals – one of the latest lucrative markets for the trade in counterfeit medicines controlled by organised criminals.
The IHMA’s warning comes as Australia faces a possible ‘epidemic’ in the trafficking of counterfeit vaccines that could reach all parts of the country as the incidences of Covid cases rises.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that the growing volume of fake medicines is opening opportunities for counterfeit products. Counterfeiting is a multi-billion-dollar problem, but the situation in Australia is of concern as criminals take advantage of people who might be desperate for Covid vaccines, said the IHMA.
It wants to see supply chains and authorities review their anti-counterfeiting plans before the situation exacerbates further in the scramble to secure vaccines. The news comes as Australia fell 3.4 million doses short of its target of delivering four million Covid vaccinations in March – an 85% shortfall.
Authorities may be forced to bring forward their plans for investment in authentication and verification technologies to effectively protect people and distribution channels, the IHMA added.
Covid has created high demand for vaccines and an IHMA poll revealed that that almost 50% of manufacturers and suppliers of holograms had seen an increase in demand from customers, specifiers and end-users for devices and technologies in the face of the pandemic.
Dr Paul Dunn, chair of the IHMA, said: “Covid presents opportunities for criminals, who are infiltrating global supply channels, deploying scams and counterfeiting measures to trick consumers and damage manufacturers. Furthermore, items such as falsified medicines and test kits can pose a terrible threat and can endanger lives.
“Supply chains and drugs’ infrastructures across Australia must be bolstered with states enhancing their anti-counterfeiting plans, including the introduction of harder hitting anti-counterfeiting legislation and strategies.
“The use of track and trace programmes featuring security devices for instance could prove especially helpful, facilitating greater cross border cooperation to tackle mutual threats and come down hard on criminals before Australia has a counterfeiting epidemic on its hands.
“Holograms can to be effective in the frontline fight against counterfeiters and fraudsters, protecting brands and profits. Those involved in the supply chain are reassured by their presence on products, recognising the security and financial benefits provided.”
The use of well-designed and properly deployed authentication solutions, as advocated by the ISO12931 standard, enables examiners to verify the authenticity of a legitimate product, differentiating it from fake products coming from counterfeiting hot spots in Asia and eastern Europe.
Even those that carry a ‘fake’ authentication feature can be distinguished from the genuine item if that item carries a carefully thought-out authentication solution.