# Are there any simple tests to authenticate vaccines at a remote vaccination site?

• COVID
Falsified vaccines are not uncommon, as far as I know. How do they know a vaccine is authentic at a vaccination site that has no laboratory?

berkeman
Mentor
Welcome to PF.

Falsified vaccines are not uncommon, as far as I know.
Can you provide a reference for that?

How do they know a vaccine is authentic at a vaccination site that has no laboratory?
By the distribution chain tracking I would imagine.

bhobba and russ_watters
PeroK
Homework Helper
Gold Member
2020 Award
Falsified vaccines are not uncommon, as far as I know. How do they know a vaccine is authentic at a vaccination site that has no laboratory?
The question applies to any medicines, either administered at a medical centre or bought over the counter. How do you know what you're buying really is ibuprofen, for example?

Tom.G
The question applies to any medicines, either administered at a medical centre or bought over the counter. How do you know what you're buying really is ibuprofen, for example?
I think the important part of the question bears on the severity of the consequences.

PeroK
Homework Helper
Gold Member
2020 Award
I think the important part of the question bears on the severity of the consequences.
You mean that fake medicine can only harm or kill you if it's a fake vaccine? Fake antibiotics, malaria tablets or painkillers are much safer?

Tom.G
You mean that fake medicine can only harm or kill you if it's a fake vaccine? Fake antibiotics, malaria tablets or painkillers are much safer?
I was thinking in terms of ineffectiveness, which is at least, or perhaps more, likely.
Sorry if there was a lack of clarity there.

PeroK
Here's a reference. Understandably, the people who work on this want to keep a low profile. Let's help them keep it that way.

#### Attachments

• Medical Product Quality Report_COVID-19 VACCINE issues_Up to 31 March 2021.pdf
1.4 MB · Views: 47
Tom.G
russ_watters
Mentor
You mean that fake medicine can only harm or kill you if it's a fake vaccine? Fake antibiotics, malaria tablets or painkillers are much safer?
Are fake homeopathics safer or more dangerous than real ones?
Falsified vaccines are not uncommon, as far as I know. How do they know a vaccine is authentic at a vaccination site that has no laboratory?
Per the pointedly snarky response above, in developed countries the way to ensure authenticity is to get the vaccine from reputable sources, just like you do any other medicine. Per your source, you shouldn't go to some random dude with a website to get the vaccine. This is the entire reason the FDA and other countries' equivalent agencies exist and should be fairly obvious.
Here's a reference. Understandably, the people who work on this want to keep a low profile. Let's help them keep it that way.
Huh? Why would they need to keep a low profile? No, I don't think we should. The issue of fake vaccines will be more of a problem as less developed countries start distributing the vaccine. And Russia.

bhobba and berkeman
hutchphd
Homework Helper
My response to the Moderna vaccine (in the US) was short and distinct. As an affirmative indicator I believe it could be useful. My second shot produced a distinct malaise and about 24 hr elevated body temperature. It would be difficult to replicate these responses with an inert surrogate.

russ_watters
Staff Emeritus
Are fake homeopathics safer or more dangerous than real ones?
Yes.

It would be difficult to replicate these responses with an inert surrogate.
While I agree in general (modulo the placebo effect), the better question is "why"? To cover their tracks? That only works until people start getting sick.

One can take the "why" another level - how does anyone make any money from this? If you're going to commit a crime, shouldn't there be a payoff? In the US, the federal government buys the vaccine directly from the manufacturer. Why would anybody buy counterfeit vaccine when they can get the real stuff for free?

Furthermore, how much is a dose? A few dollars. Why would someone want to go into the business of counterfeiting vaccine when they can get more money for less risk for counterfeiting Gucci handbags?

bhobba, russ_watters and hutchphd
berkeman
Mentor
Yes.

bhobba, pinball1970, russ_watters and 2 others
Keeping a low profile is because we do not want to help counterfeiters. They can be smart, too.

TeethWhitener
Gold Member
One can take the "why" another level - how does anyone make any money from this? If you're going to commit a crime, shouldn't there be a payoff? In the US, the federal government buys the vaccine directly from the manufacturer. Why would anybody buy counterfeit vaccine when they can get the real stuff for free?

Furthermore, how much is a dose? A few dollars. Why would someone want to go into the business of counterfeiting vaccine when they can get more money for less risk for counterfeiting Gucci handbags?
Can you provide a reference for that?

Well, regardless, it’s happening:
Apparently they were charging something like $2500 per dose (for what turned out to be anti-wrinkle medicine?) and advertising on social media groups. I guess it’s easier and cheaper to fill a syringe with saline and charge a few grand for it than to make a fake designer handbag (or substitute a designer label in a cheap handbag?—gotta be honest, I haven’t thought too much about how run a designer handbag scam). Yes. While I agree in general (modulo the placebo effect), the better question is "why"? To cover their tracks? That only works until people start getting sick. One can take the "why" another level - how does anyone make any money from this? If you're going to commit a crime, shouldn't there be a payoff? In the US, the federal government buys the vaccine directly from the manufacturer. Why would anybody buy counterfeit vaccine when they can get the real stuff for free? Furthermore, how much is a dose? A few dollars. Why would someone want to go into the business of counterfeiting vaccine when they can get more money for less risk for counterfeiting Gucci handbags? Supposing you find empty vials, it is easy to refill them with saline and sell shots at your shady clinic at$99 a shot.

Supposing you find empty vials, it is easy to refill them with saline and sell shots at your shady clinic at $99 a shot. Sorry, "you" form is passive, not implying that you have a shady clinic! Difficulties of the English language. berkeman Mentor Supposing you find empty vials, it is easy to refill them with saline and sell shots at your shady clinic at$99 a shot.
"you find" is not a likely scenario, unless you are a worker in the "Sharps Waste" chain. So I suppose you need to add in bribery and conspiracy to the scenario.

Vaccine vials are generally disposed of in the same Sharps Containers where the hypodermic needles are tossed, and those Sharps Containers are disposed of per safety protocols. You won't find used vaccine vials in the trash bins at your local hospital, if that's what you are thinking.

Syringes, Needles, and Empty Vaccine Vials

These items should be placed in an FDA-approved sharps container. These containers are made from rigid, puncture-proof plastic and prevent injury and spread of infectious waste. Never discard needles or other sharp objects in the trash or loose into the biohazardous waste box/container.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sharps_waste
Disposal of sharps waste

Extreme care must be taken in the management and disposal of sharps waste. The goal in sharps waste management is to safely handle all materials until they can be properly disposed of. The final step in the disposal of sharps waste is to dispose of them in an autoclave. A less common approach is to incinerate them; typically only chemotherapy sharps waste is incinerated. Steps must be taken along the way to minimize the risk of injury from this material, while maximizing the amount of sharps material disposed.[citation needed] Strict hospital protocols and government regulations that instruct health care providers on how to manage sharps waste help ensure that the waste is handled as effectively and safely as possible.

Disposal methods vary by country and locale, but common methods of disposal are either by truck service or, in the United States, by disposal of sharps through the mail. Truck service involves trained personnel collecting sharps waste, and often medical waste, at the point of generation, and hauling it away by truck to a destruction facility. Similarly, the mail-back sharps disposal method allows generators to ship sharps waste to the disposal facility directly through the U.S. mail in specially designed and approved shipping containers. Mail-back sharps disposal allows waste generators to dispose of smaller amounts of sharps more economically than if they were to hire out a truck service. Recent[when?] legislation in France has stated that pharmaceutical companies supplying self injection medications are responsible for the disposal of spent needles. Previously popular needle clippers and caps are no longer acceptable as safety devices, and either sharps box or needle destruction devices are required.[citation needed]

pinball1970 and BillTre
Staff Emeritus
Supposing you find empty vials, it is easy to refill them with saline and sell shots at your shady clinic at $99 a shot. Did you read what I wrote? Why sell them at$99 at "your shady clinic" when you can get the real stuff for free?

bhobba
TeethWhitener
Gold Member
You could always just buy new empty vials from pretty much anywhere, fill them with saline, slap a fake label on them, and charge for them. Most people don’t know what authentic vaccine vials or labels look like. As pointed out earlier, fake vaccines have already been identified in two countries, and according to this article:
People are in fact buying empty discarded vials on the dark web.

OP’s question is legitimate, but I don’t have a really great answer for folks outside the US. In the US, the COVID vaccines are free, but there have been some concerns that, because people are used to being screwed over by private insurers, they are more susceptible to scams that demand payment for a vaccine. HHS, among others, has already put out scam warnings (though admittedly not directly tied with actual distribution of a fake vaccine).

Edit: the HHS alert is for COVID testing scams. The FTC just put something out about vaccine scams: https://www.healthline.com/health-news/ftc-warns-of-covid-19-vaccine-scam-what-to-know

russ_watters
Mentor
Why sell them at $99 at "your shady clinic" when you can get the real stuff for free? So this business is both illegal and unlikely to be profitable? Sign me up for a franchise! Vanadium 50 and Tom.G Vanadium 50 Staff Emeritus Science Advisor Education Advisor So this business is both illegal and unlikely to be profitable? Crime doesn't pay. bhobba and BillTre pinball1970 Gold Member Second jab in two hours. Hopefully the real thing. russ_watters bhobba Mentor Why sell them at$99 at "your shady clinic" when you can get the real stuff for free?
Exactly. There is zero incentive. Plus, at least in Aus, we have an audited trail that a clinic, hub etc., gets. I suppose someone could do it, but you are getting into the same territory as Feynman and Flying Saucers:

Thanks
Bill

neilparker62
Homework Helper
Authenticity is certainly a concern if one is living outside the US/UK/ first world generally although to say so will probably risk howls of opprobium. Perhaps Pfizer , J&J , AZ etc should take some steps to ratify 'kosher' distribution outlets in countries they sell to. Or have serial numbers such that one can at least confirm (via website entry of the vial serial no) your vaccine was not from an already used vial. Or perhaps a more sophisticated cellphone scanning system so that you are given paperwork which you can scan and verify direct with (say) Pfizer that your vial was a genuine Pfizer product. Some governments might object to citizens being suspicious of vaccine authenticity but at the same time scanning should not worry them if they have nothing to hide.

bhobba
Staff Emeritus
There are serial numbers today. They appear to be by the batch, not the individual dose. Look at your receipt. If I were paranoid, I could check to see if this batch went to the place I got vaccinated. But I ask again - how does someone make money off a counterfeit if the real stuff is free?

"We lose a little on every transaction, but we make it up in volume."

Oh, and I checked to see how much the vaccinatrix (is that a word?) billed my insurance company. \$2.59 per dose.

TeethWhitener