The Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) is urging people to get vaccinated against COVID-19 only through national immunisation programs and officially authorised mechanisms and warns doing so outside these channels can be dangerous to their health.
The recommendation comes in response to reports of counterfeit or unauthorised vaccines in some Latin American countries, such as Bolivia, Colombia, and Mexico, and to press reports of vaccines being administered outside authorised national immunisation programs.
In March, WHO issued a global alert on the counterfeit Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine in Mexico.
People are advised to use only authentic vaccines as directed by national authorities, to seek the advice of a health professional if in doubt, and, if they know of any suspicious incidents, to report them to the authorities so that the products can be identified and withdrawn from circulation.
PAHO said the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increase in incidents of substandard, counterfeit, and unregistered medical products worldwide.
In particular, the limited availability of vaccines appears to be contributing to the emergence of products in illegal channels, ranging from Internet sales offers to customs seizures to retail trade.
It added that substandard, counterfeit, and unregistered vaccines can lead to increased prevalence of COVID-19, potential adverse and even toxic or fatal events, and loss of trust in the health system, as well as social and economic consequences of unpredictable magnitude.