The Government has been warned to be on high alert for the sale of black market Covid-19 vaccines as it prepares to roll out a national vaccination programme.
Interpol has made direct contact with the Government and other EU member states to warn about the sale of fake vaccines online.
The worrying development comes as countries across the world are set to begin the process of vaccinating their citizens against the deadly coronavirus.
The international police force contacted the Government to ask it to make the public aware of the threat of black market vaccines.
Warnings about fake jabs will be part of the Government’s information campaign as it plans its vaccination programme.
A senior Government source said: “Interpol have been in contact to say there is a real possibility that criminal organisations will begin selling fake vaccines online.”
“But people should be aware that they won’t be official vaccines, won’t work and won’t come with a digital vaccination passport,” the source added.
It comes as Tánaiste Leo Varadkar officially confirmed the vaccine will be provided to everyone who wants it, free of charge.
Vaccines will cost the State more than €117m, but Mr Varadkar told the Dáil the burden would be met from general taxation, with no new cost imposition on the public.
“Our programme of vaccination will be free of charge and based on need,” he said.
On the question of private companies acquiring vaccine for their staff and possibly affecting public distribution, he told Labour Party leader Alan Kelly that the State would be providing indemnities to manufacturers for its inoculations.
But private companies would be taking on this risk themselves if they proceeded with their own staff jabs.
Mr Kelly raised the prioritisation of who is going to get the vaccines, with a High Level Task Force report on this subject due next Friday.
Meanwhile, the Trinity College Provost, Dr Patrick Prendergast, has said ultra-cold fridges at universities could be used to store Covid vaccines safely.
He said higher education colleges were eager to help in the upcoming national vaccination programme, as they had been throughout the pandemic.
Dr Prendergast and other higher education leaders were responding to questions at the Oireachtas Education Committee about the impact of Covid on the sector, which extended to what contribution they could make to the vaccination programme.
Among the points he made, Dr Prendergast said universities had “minus-90 [-90C] fridges that can help in the roll-out of the vaccination programme”.
One of the major challenges around delivering some vaccines was the need for low storage temperatures with, for instance, a requirement to keep the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine at -70C or below.
Visit our Covid-19 vaccine dashboard for updates on the roll out of the vaccination program and the rate of Coronavirus cases Ireland