COVID-19 Vaccine | Pexels
Since the coronavirus vaccines have been released to the public, several darknet markets have surfaced selling both real and unverified vaccines. In addition, fake vaccination passports have also been found online despite only select states using them.
Vaccination dark web
Darknet marketplaces are e-commerce websites that are generally used to sell illicit products. The dark web has a history of being used for the sale of illegal drugs.
“The RAND Corporation reports that researchers at Carnegie Mellon University concluded that darknet markets accounted for $100 million to $180 million in total sales volume in 2015. Cannabis-, ecstasy- and cocaine-related products accounted for about 70% of those sales,” Investopedia writer Jake Frankenfield said in a recent article about Darknet markets.
Since the coronavirus vaccines were released to the public in Dec. 2020, advertisements for vaccinations have been found online ranging in price from $250 to $1,200 an average. While some listings have been for Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines, advertisements have also been found for unverified vaccinations.
“Currently, three vaccines are authorized and recommended in the United States to prevent COVID-19: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson and Johnson (Janssen),” said the CDC in a recent update to the coronavirus vaccination website.
The CDC recently placed a pause on the Johnson and Johnson vaccination in response to multiple recipients developing severe blood clots; however, on April 23, the CDC lifted this pause and has now added additional warnings to the vaccine.
In addition, the CDC also states that the AstraZeneca and Novavax vaccines entered the third phase of clinical trials in the United States on Feb. 27, 2021. The AstraZeneca vaccine was granted emergency-use approval in the European Union (EU) in Jan. 2021.
Vaccination passports are now surfacing on the dark web market. The idea behind a vaccination passport is that it could be used to provide proof of vaccination in order to allow people to travel or occupy public spaces as the United States fights to move towards a post-pandemic world.
“For a vaccine-passport program to work, the federal government needs to support the idea and for there to be a common technological standard that is secure no matter where used,” Seattle Times Staff Reporter Ryan Blethen said in a recent article. “The Biden administration is working on programs that could be used to show proof of vaccination but is not considering a federal vaccine passport.”
In the state of Texas, Governor Greg Abbott banned any state government mandated vaccination passports, citing that they infringe on personal freedom. The state of New York uses the Excelsior Pass app to provide proof of negative coronavirus tests and vaccinations in order to help the state create a plan to ease restrictions.
Despite the differential thinking by state on the idea of vaccination passports, several fake variations are surfacing online for sale as of March 2021.
“Check Point investigators found many sellers offering forged documents, including one supposedly from the UK, with a vaccination card for $150 using the hard-to-trace cryptocurrency Bitcoin as the payment method,” Registered Nurse Danielle Reiter and Dr. Robert Carlson said in a recent article.
Along with vaccination cards, Reiter and Carlson said they also have seen evidence of Darknet vaccination sales and fake covid test results.