WHO warns of falsified COVID-19 vaccines, remdesivir

Falsified copies of the main COVID-19 vaccine used in India – Covishield – have been seized in India and Africa in July and August, according to a World Health Organization (WHO) alert.

Genuine Covishield is made by Serum Institute of India and is a locally-produced version of the AstraZeneca/University of Oxford vaccine Vaxzevria (AXD1222). The manufacturer has confirmed that the products seized in Uganda (main image) and India (see below) are counterfeits.

According to the WHO alert, people in both countries have been administered with the falsified shots, placing them at risk of contracting COVID-19 as well as potential side effects from the spurious vaccines themselves, such as infections if the vials were not produced in a sterile environment.

"Falsified COVID-19 vaccines pose a serious risk to global public health and place an additional burden on vulnerable populations and health systems," said the WHO in its alert.

"It is important to detect and remove these falsified products from circulation to prevent harm to patients."

Details of the falsified vaccines are included in the table below:

Serum Institute has supplied millions Covishield vaccines to countries in Asia, Africa and South America as part of the international COVAX donation scheme, although it recently banned exports as it tried to get its domestic vaccination campaign on track. More than 486 million doses of Covishield have been administered so far in India alone.

It's not clear how widely the falsified vaccines have been distributed. The WHO advises that all medical products must be obtained from authorised/licensed suppliers, and the products' authenticity and physical condition should be carefully checked.

Another fake remdesivir seizure

The latest alert came just a few days after the WHO warned of two batches of falsified remdesivir injection – claiming to be the genuine product made by Gilead Sciences – had been identified in Mexico.There have been a number of earlier reports of counterfeit remdesivir in the US en route to Mexico and India.

"These falsified products have been reported at the patient level (including at a hospital) in Mexico and are illicitly supplied on the internet," according to the agency.

Details of the falsified remdesivir batches are as follows:

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