In early February, vaccine fever was running high in the northern Mexican city of Monterrey, about 80 miles from the U.S. border. Mexico’s vaccination rollout had slowed down drastically while its northern neighbor’s picked up speed. Many of Monterrey’s wealthy residents were flying to cities like Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio to get their shots. Others, equally desperate, bought Pfizer shots from a local private clinic for $500 to $1,200. But on Feb.
17, the city’s health authority responded to a complaint about the clinic’s operations, raided the site, and discovered the vaccines were fakes. Police found the pirated shots stored inside beer coolers with faulty expiration dates and different batch numbers from the Pfizer doses distributed by the federal government.
Mexico has long battled with a black market of stolen, adulterated, and expired medicines.
The size of this illicit market is hard to measure, but estimates valued it in $550 million in 2012. Now, the coveted COVID-19 vaccines have joined the list of profitable drugs entering the market illegally through scams that endanger the lives of its victims.