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Suspicious COVID-19 vaccines being traded on dark web

  • February 12, 2021
  • , Nikkei , p. 27
  • JMH Translation

Nikkei found through an interview with an expert that there are websites that claim to be buying and selling COVID-19 vaccines from China and other countries on the “dark web,” a highly anonymous internet realm. The websites do not say how the vaccines, which may be fake, were procured.


The police authorities are increasing their vigilance against new fraudulent schemes, saying that such questionable vaccines “may appear on more common websites after vaccinations begin in Japan and people are waiting to be vaccinated.”


The situation was confirmed by Nobuo Miwa, president of S&J, an information security company, and an information security adviser to a government agency. According to Miwa, he accessed the dark web using special software between late January and early February 2021 and found several sites that claimed to be selling the vaccines, displaying words such as “COVID-19 vaccine.”


Miwa also found a site claiming to be run by a group of scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, Chinese Academy of Sciences. The group claimed that “China is not sharing its vaccines with other countries but we succeeded in sending it to other countries,” and asked for “support to escape from China and conduct activities to save more lives.” The site did not offer the vaccine for sale but instead asked for donations. When Miwa emailed the site regarding the donation amount, he was asked to pay about 7,000 yen (at a recent exchange rate) worth of bitcoins for one vaccine dose.


An insider at a Japanese pharmaceutical company says that “securing vaccines is a top priority for countries” and that “it is impossible for strictly controlled vaccines to be sold on the black market.”


COVID-19 vaccination has begun in the U.S., Europe, and other countries. Japan will approve the Pfizer vaccine on Feb. 15. There have been reports of vaccine-related crimes. Suspicious solicitations such as claims that vaccinations can be provided following the transfer of funds have been observed in several areas, according to the Consumer Affairs Agency.

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