Over 80 people have been arrested in China for their suspected participation in the creation and selling of fake COVID-19 vaccines to China and other countries. 

The crime ring had been in operation since September 2020. The ring was lead by an individual with the last name Kong, who is believed to be the main producer of the fraudulent vaccines, the Xinhua News Agency reported via the Associated Press

The vaccines were made of a simple saline solution. Which countries received these fake doses remains unknown. 

Over 3,000 fake doses of the vaccine were confiscated during arrests in Bejing, Jiangsu, and Shandong, according to Reuters.

“The Chinese government highly values vaccine safety and will continue to take efforts to strictly prosecute any counterfeits, fake sales and illegal business, and other related actions that involve vaccines,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Tuesday, reported the AP.

“At the same time, China will strengthen our law enforcement cooperation with the relevant countries, to earnestly prevent the spread of this type of illegal and criminal action,” he continued. 

This isn’t the first time a crime ring in China has been caught illegally selling vaccines. In 2016, millions of inoculations that had been stored improperly were distributed over the country.

To date, China has seen over 100,000 COVID-19 cases and nearly 5,000 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Beijing has pledged to give poorer nations priority access to its vaccines, in a move analysts say is designed to increase China's global influence Beijing has pledged to give poorer nations priority access to its vaccines, in a move analysts say is designed to increase China's global influence. Photo: AFP / WANG Zhao