Those in charge of the national vaccine rollout are warning South Africans not to attempt to jump the queue.
Glenda Gray, co-principal investigator of the vaccination project, told The Sunday Times that those who attempt to jump the queue by committing fraud are putting themselves at risk of facing criminal charges.
“We know people are desperate and anxious. We hear about fraud but we need names to investigate. We take any fraudulent activity very seriously and would open up a criminal case,” said Gray.
Gray’s co-principal Linda-Gail Bekker added that it is selfish to attempt to leapfrog healthcare workers.
“If you usurp their position, you are removing the vaccine from the arm of somebody where it is needed most,” she said.
“If your mother gets COVID-19, health-care workers will be looking after her.”
Over 100,000 health-care workers have been vaccinated so far, with this number expected to rise further as more vaccine doses arrive in the country.
Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize said South Africa is expecting an extra 500,000 Johnson & Johnson vaccines between now and the end of March, while about three million doses will arrive between April and June.
Beware fake vaccines
Those who are looking to skip the queue and get vaccinated are also turning to online sources, including the dark web.
However, the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) cautioned these people that no approved vaccines are available through this avenue.
“Any vaccine being advertised on websites or the dark web, is not legitimate, not tested and may be dangerous,” it said.
“Anyone who buys these drugs is putting themselves at risk and giving their money to organised criminals.”
On Wednesday, the police seized 400 doses of a fake COVID-19 vaccine and a large number of fake masks in a bust.
Three Chinese nationals and a Zambian national were arrested.
“Since COVID-19 reached the shores of South Africa, the government has adopted an integrated multi-disciplinary law enforcement approach,” said South African Police Service (SAPS) spokesperson Vishnu Naidoo.
“This, together with our association with counterparts from all INTERPOL member countries, is proving to be very effective as we have seen in the arrests for foreign nationals attempting to peddle fake vaccines to unsuspecting people within South Africa.”
South Africa has experienced over 1.5 million diagnosed cases of COVID-19, while over 50,000 South Africans have succumbed to the virus.