Real or fake? Uncertainty over Sputnik vaccines seized in Campeche

In this photo released by Mexico's tax agency, SAT, on March 17, 2021, officials show vials of seized, alleged Sputnik V vaccines for COVID-19 in Campeche, Mexico. RDIF, the Russian entity that paid for the vaccine's development, said these vaccines were fake after Mexican authorities seized them from a private plane en route to Honduras on March 17. (Mexican tax agency SAT via AP)
Vials of allegedly fake Sputnik V vaccines were seized in Campeche, Mexico. RDIF, the Russian entity that paid for the vaccine’s development, called them fake based on their packaging. Photo: Courtesy

The “fake” Sputnik V vaccines bought privately by a factory owner in Campeche and administered to his workers as well business associates in Mérida, may actually have been real. Prosecutors said they are unsure.

Mexico’s medical safety commission still hasn’t said what was in 1,155 vials found in false bottoms of ice chests aboard a private plane bound for Honduras. The containers, which held more than 5,700 doses, were found during an inspection at the airport in Campeche.

Initially, the Russian vaccine’s distributor said they were not real Sputnik V vaccines.

The Russian Direct Investment Fund said that after reviewing photographs of the packaging, they confirmed the vaccine to be fake.

“Analysis of the photographs of the seized batch, including the design of containers and labels, suggests that it is a fake substance which has nothing to do with the original vaccine,” the fund said in a statement.

But later the head of Mexico’s customs service said they appeared to be real, and now prosecutors say they don’t know.

The Honduran company Grupo Karim’s said that the vaccine was not intended to be sold, but rather given free to its employees and their families. The company said its workers had been hit hard by the pandemic and it was looking for a way to help them. 

The questionable vaccine shots also were administered to businessmen and government officials from as far away as Mérida and Mexico City. These associates had maintained a close relationship with Grupo Karim’s owner, Pakistani businessman Mohamad Yusuf Amdani Bai, according to Reforma.

Bai, who also owns textile companies in the United States, Panama, Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Nicaragua, is considered the richest man in Honduras.

Doses were first given out March 10 at the Ocean View Hotel and a clinic, both which are owned by Bai.

The workers at the Grupo Karim’s textile factory received their shots on March 15.

Two of the people who were injected with the fake Sputnik V doses acknowledged that they were worried about the possible health risks they could now be facing. 

With information from The Associated Press

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