• The COVID-19 vaccines allegedly being sold for Bitcoin in India are not yet approved for sale, a report says
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to launch a COVID-19 vaccination drive Saturday
  • Bitcoin is a preferred mode of payment in the darknet markets

Coronavirus vaccines are allegedly being offered in exchange for Bitcoin in India, doctors told The Times of India.

One veteran doctor, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told the publication that they have received reports and even met people who claimed to have received the COVID-19 vaccines or were at least offered in exchange for the cryptocurrency. Several other doctors also said VIP patients have asked them if these vaccines are real and safe.

The alarming issue is that this is being done through the black market so the doctors are not able to verify whether the vaccines are authentic or not. Another issue is that these vaccines, allegedly offered only to elites, particularly in the state of Karnataka, are not yet approved in India.

“It’s unethical to sell a drug that’s not approved for sale in the country,” a veteran doctor told The Times of India.

Dr. HM Prasanna, the president of The Private Hospital’s and Nursing Homes’ Association (Phana), has also heard about the illegal COVID-19 vaccines currently being sold in exchange for Bitcoins, whose value at the time this article was written was $38,000.

“One must exercise caution in such cases and follow the government’s guidelines in this regard,” Prasanna told the local publication.

Dr. R Giridhara Babu, epidemiologist and member of Technical Advisory Committee for Covid-19 management in Karnataka, said, “The government should track down black marketeers. It worsens the inequities since only those with money and power can gain access. Those taking such vaccines might be under the impression that it’s an immunity booster, but they may end up taking a useless product.”

Another doctor agreed, advising Indian citizens to wait until the government has given its approval and rolled out the vaccine through India’s drugs controller general.

But it looks like Indian citizens will not have to wait much longer. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to launch a vaccine drive on Saturday, according to a recent report from the same publication. This is amid reports of the increasing number of infections due to COVID-19’s mutant variant.

There have also been reports of COVID-19 vaccines being sold in exchange for Bitcoin on the dark web. The original average price of the vaccines is $250, but this has since increased to $1,000 for an unspecified vaccine dose, according to cybersecurity firm Check Point.

Bitcoin has been the preferred payment method in darknet markets due to its current price rally, but other cryptocurrencies that are more private than BTC are also often used. Bitcoin is perceived to be anonymous. However, due to the nature of the Bitcoin Blockchain, which is public, tools have emerged to track down illegal drug trade and money laundering being facilitated with Bitcoin.

Scientists say vaccines are the only way out of the pandemic, but inocculation programmes are off to a slow start
Scientists say vaccines are the only way out of the pandemic, but inocculation programmes are off to a slow start AFP / Valery HACHE