While Beijing has its hands full with the latest COVID outbreak in mainland China, Chinese media organizations such as Xinhua are reporting that over 80 alleged members of a criminal organization have been arrested on suspicion of manufacturing and selling fake COVID-19 vaccines - some of which were being sent to other countries.
Police in Beijing, along with Jiangsu and Shandong provinces, infiltrated the organization they claim was selling the vaccines, which consisted of a simple saline solution; Some of the arrested suspects were apprehended abroad, according to ABC News, citing Chinese media.
Though it was unclear exactly who bought and sold the vaccines, Xinhua reported that the vaccine was reportedly found in China and other countries as well: "China has already reported the situation to the relevant countries," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin during a daily press briefing Tuesday.
"The Chinese government highly values vaccine safety and will continue to take efforts to strictly prosecute any counterfeits, fake sales and illegal business, and other related actions that involve vaccines...At the same time, China will strengthen our law enforcement cooperation with the relevant countries, to earnestly prevent the spread of this type of illegal and criminal action."
Issues with fake vaccines and fake drugs aren't exactly new to China. Back in 2016, police arrested two people operating a ring which sold millions of improperly stored vaccines across the country, while much of the fentanyl sold on American streets makes its way to the US via Mexico and China.
As a result of the fake vaccine scandal, Beijing said it would reform regulations and increase criminal penalties for those caught making counterfeit drugs.
Chinese authorities warned that faith in Chinese vaccines (7 of which are in the final stages of development), had been impacted by headlines over fake doses - right as several are reportedly almost ready to be sold to various countries on a non-emergency basis.
The China bust isn't the first episode of a vaccine fake being exposed: Police in Colombia busted a spa giving out doses of a fake vaccine for roughly $15 a pop.