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COVID-19 scams surface as vaccines prepare for FDA approval
(Daniel Paquet/CC)

With the announcement of Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines nearing the home stretch of approval in the U.S., a new danger has poised itself: scam treatments and fraudulent vaccines.


As the states are gearing up for the biggest vaccine distribution effort in U.S. history, the Department of Homeland Security is working with the two companies to prepare for and prevent scams, false treatments and unapproved medical equipment from surfacing.

Texas is slated to receive the Pfizer vaccine as early as mid-December as part of an early trial program.

As of Monday, no vaccine has been approved for COVID-19 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration yet, and only one drug, remdesivir, has been approved for virus treatment. The FDA is now warning against unapproved or even fraudulent treatments being sold to consumers under false pretenses.

"The FDA is particularly concerned that these deceptive and misleading products might cause Americans to delay or stop appropriate medical treatment, leading to serious and life-threatening harm," the FDA recently said in a statement.

On CBS' "60 Minutes," General Gus Perna, who manages the government's efforts to distribute the vaccine, said the U.S. government is prepared to begin distributing the vaccine within 24 hours of approval.

Legitimate vaccines have brand protections in place. However, those protections may not be available until the second generation of the vaccine, as everything is currently operating under emergency protocol, Karen Gardner, chief marketing officer at SIPCA North America, told the Associated Press.

COVID-19 has been rife with scams; when the virus began to grow in the U.S., shortages of masks, gloves, protective gear, toilet paper and more items popped up, providing the perfect opportunity for criminals to perform a quick cash grab and leave people waiting for items they would never receive.

Already, the Department of Homeland Security has flagged 70,900 websites for involvement in some type of COVID-19-related fraud, leading to 185 arrests and 1,600 seizures of $27 million worth of antiviral pharmaceuticals or unapproved equipment. Department investigators have been working with border, FDA and FBI officials.

Currently, investigators are working on creating a database of information from more than 200 companies and educating agents on how the vaccine will be packaged to combat fraud.

To avoid falling victim to a scam, AP recommends only getting a vaccine that is administered by a medical professional, not buying any COVID-19 treatments or "cures" over the internet, not answering any calls or messages about COVID-19 treatments and reporting any suspicious activity to covid19investigations@dhs.gov.

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