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Iran cracks rings selling fake COVID vaccines, seizes large haul

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A combination of photos published by Iran’s official IRNA agency on July 7, 2021 purportedly shows vaccine vials and medicines confiscated by Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence from a ring that has been active in selling fake and smuggled vaccines in Iran.

Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence (VAJA) has arrested several people in relation to an operation to seize a large haul of fake and smuggled coronavirus vaccines.

The official IRNA news agency said in a Wednesday report citing a VAJA statement that the rings had been active in trafficking and counterfeiting vaccines that are on high demand in Iran.

The statement said VAJA forces had used tip-offs from the public and extensive intelligence gathering to crack the rings.

It said the vaccines confiscated included major foreign brands like the Chinese Sinopharm or the British AstraZeneca as well as the US-made Pfizer which faces a ban in Iran. It did not elaborate how much of the haul were fakes.

Iran has been going on with a relatively slow vaccination campaign against the coronavirus since late December. Authorities have blamed US banking sanctions and a global shortage of vaccines for a delayed inoculation program that has caused some people to look for jabs in the black market.

Health ministry officials have repeatedly warned that vaccines offered in the black market on exorbitant prices are fakes.

The VAJA statement said its forces had also seized counterfeit coronavirus drugs from the ringleaders’ hiding places.

It said the criminals had used ads on the social media to deceive “a significant number of people” to buy the drugs and the vaccines.

The statement said the operations had covered several locations across Iran, adding that judicial authorities had cooperated to the raids.

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