Drugmakers and Health Authorities Prepare For Potential Theft of Future Vaccines

Pharmaceutical companies, health authorities, hospitals, and other links in the health care supply chain are preparing to ramp up anti-theft efforts in the storage, shipment, and distribution of coronavirus vaccines once a product has been approved for use by the FDA.

According to the Pharmaceutical Security Institute, incidents of theft and counterfeiting of pharmaceutical products rose nearly 70% worldwide over the past 5 years, The Wall Street Journal reported. Initially, once a vaccine is approved, supplies will be limited and intended for high-priority groups, such as health care workers.

The situation will be “high demand, completely low supply,” said Soumi Saha, PharmD, JD, Vice President of Advocacy at Premier Inc., a purchasing organization for hospitals. “That [situation is] extremely lucrative for the black market.”

Pfizer and other vaccine manufacturers plan to use GPS software to track distribution, location, and temperature of the vaccines, and will stage fake shipments to throw off attempts at theft. Corning Inc., a glassmaker, is producing vials with blacklight verification to discourage counterfeiting.

“We are appropriately paranoid about anything that has to do with either cybersecurity or physical security and we are taking great precaution to ensure that these are safeguarded,” Paul Mango, Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy at HHS, said in an interview.

Some hospital systems, such as Philadelphia’s Jefferson Health, plan to store the vaccines in special rooms with security cameras and cages that require keycard authorization for entry. However, several large hospital systems, including Ochsner Health System in Louisiana, have stated that their current security measures are sufficient – they are more concerned with distribution and proper storage temperatures than potential theft.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, October 21, 2020.