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News Article

Vaccine Thieves To Spend Up to 10 Years in Prison

By Miriam Bello | Fri, 12/03/2021 - 16:07

The Mexican Senate approved a penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of MX$90,000 (US$4,217) to anyone who steals vaccines from the National Health System.

The decision reforms various articles of the General Health Law and was approved with 81 votes in favor, 10 against and one abstention. The legislative process is now in hands of the Chamber of Deputies. While this is not an absolute solution for vaccine theft, it is “a very positive step towards it,” said Gabriela Benavides, Senator, Partido Verde Ecologista (PVEM).

Back in Oct. 2021, IMSS reported the theft of a 10,100-dose shipment of influenza vaccines headed for the State of Mexico. IMSS then notified COFEPRIS of the total number of pieces stolen and their registration number to avoid the misuse of the supplies. The institute also informed that the transport service provider also reported the theft to Mexican authorities.

Insecurity and robbery are the “biggest challenge in Mexico" for logistic companies, told José Luis Ortiz, Managing Director, Medistik, to Mexico Business News (MBN). “The industry is facing a record number of highway robberies of trailers, which leads to added costs for companies as it forces them to hire security guards and install GPS and monitoring systems.”

Medicine and vaccine theft could be reduced by embracing technology, claims Enrique Culebro, Founder and General Director Central Media. He explains that one of the priorities of the digital health agenda is to define the role of electronic prescriptions to limit the sale of counterfeits.

“COFEPRIS is fully aware of the sale of counterfeit drugs and vaccines through social networks,” explains to MBN Cecilia Stahlhut, Senior Associate of the Life Sciences Practice, Hogan Lovells, “but the council needs more resources to deal with these problems. It is also necessary to sensitize the general population about the risks of these medicines.”

Boosting the number of security personnel does not eliminate the problem of insecurity and theft, José Alberto Peña, Director General, Marzam told MBN. “But, we are focusing on technology to ensure our products are tracked correctly, taking preventive action and working closely with the authorities of each state.”

For tech to work correctly, government agencies and pharmaceutical manufacturers have to collaborate closely so the costs of anti-counterfeit technology are not a barrier to the production of quality medicines, said Pathogens and Global Health.

Miriam Bello Miriam Bello Journalist and Industry Analyst