IHMA Warns Over Africa’s Fake Covid Vaccines

24 Mar 2021 | Press Release

Africa’s law enforcement agencies are urged to step up their 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) comes in the wake of reports by the Institute for Security Studies* of seizures of illicit Covid-19 vaccines – the latest lucrative market for the trade in counterfeit medicines controlled by organised criminals.

The IHMA’s warning comes as South Africa faces a possible ‘epidemic’ in the trafficking of counterfeit vaccines that will inevitably reach other African countries as the incidences of Covid cases rises.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that a growing volume of fake medicines are available in Africa, where the high demand for medicines and lack of local production in many countries is opening up opportunities for counterfeit products.

Counterfeiting is a multi-billion-dollar problem but the situation in Africa is of concern, the IHMA said, as criminals take advantage of a continent-wide vaccine roll out plan that lags far behind demand.

It is urging supply chains and authorities to review how they tackle the threat before the situation exacerbates further in African countries currently scrambling to secure vaccines. Authorities in South Africa and right across the continent may even be forced to bring forward their plans for investment in authentication and verification technologies to effectively protect people and distribution channels.

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 crafty 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 across Africa must be bolstered with countries enhancing their anti-counterfeiting plans, perhaps 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 Africa 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.