Pfizer Inc has identified the first confirmed instances of counterfeit versions of its COVID-19 vaccine being used abroad.
Fake doses of the two-shot inoculation, developed with German partner BioNTech SE, were found in Mexico and Poland, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The vials in Mexico had fraudulent labeling while those found in Poland appeared to contain a substance used in skin-care products.
It is the latest attempt in vaccine-related crime as offenders try to exploit the worldwide mass immunization campaign and to make a profit off of the live-saving shots.
Pfizer confirmed The Journal's report in a statement to DailyMail.com, writing that the pharmaceutical company 'has identified counterfeit versions of its COVID-19 vaccine in Mexico and Poland.'
Pfizer finds more than 80 fake doses of its COVID-19 vaccine in Mexico and Poland https://t.co/QyUKoU12Dq— Daily Mail Online (@MailOnline) April 22, 2021
'We are cognizant that in this type of environment - fueled by the ease and convenience of e-commerce and anonymity afforded by the Internet - there will be an increase in the prevalence of fraud, counterfeit and other illicit activity as it relates to vaccines and treatments for COVID-19,' the statement read, in part.
In Mexico, about 80 people at a clinic in Nuevo León state received the fake vaccine at about $1,000 per dose.
Dr Manuel de la O, the health secretary of the state, told The Journal that the vaccines were discovered in coolers like those brought to the beach and had different lot numbers than those that were sent to Nuevo León.
None of the people who received the counterfeit shot appeared to be injured and six people have been detained.
Meanwhile, in Poland, the fake doses were seized from a man's apartment and don't appear to have been given to anybody.
The Journal reports that the liquid inside the vials was examined and appears to be an anti-wrinkle treatment.
''Everybody on the planet needs it. Many are desperate for it,' Lev Kubiak, Pfizer's world head of security, told the newspaper.
'We have a very limited supply, a supply that will increase as we ramp up and other companies enter the vaccine space. In the interim, there is a perfect opportunity for criminals.'
Over the course of the pandemic, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has seized thousands of fraudulent items including masks and personal protective equipment.
Now, as the world's attention has turned towards vaccines, so has the attention of criminals, with INTERPOL warning in December 2020 that vaccines would become a 'prime target of organized crime.'
Thousands of fake doses of COVID-19 vaccines were seized by police in China and South Africa in March.
The DHS told The Journal that no counterfeit coronavirus vaccines have been found in the U.S., to date.
Several countries, including America, have taken down websites claiming to sell vaccine doses.
The websites ask for people's personal information, such as social security numbers and credit card numbers, which are then used to commit identify theft.
Pfizer has advised the public to never attempt to buy an inoculation via the Internet, writing in its statement that 'no legitimate vaccine is sold online.'
According to the Journal, the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center of the DHS had removed 30 websites and seized 74 web domains.
'Pfizer has extensive experience in criminal risk mitigation and is collaborating with BioNTech to take meaningful steps to help reduce the risk of illicit COVID-19 Vaccine activity,' Pfizer's statement read.
'Our designated team of ex-law enforcement and forensic science specialists are tracking trends very carefully and have processes in place to identify threats to the legitimate supply chain.
'We continue to work with governments, law enforcement, healthcare providers and others to combat this illegal trade.'
© Associated Newspapers Ltd.