Black market vaccines: How lack of COVID-19 vaccine supply is leading to unauthorized dealings

ORLANDO, Fla. — When you think of the black market, you may think of dark alley dealings. But when it comes to a lifesaving vaccine, the deals can be done under the bright lights of a doctor’s office.

The COVID-19 vaccine is in such high demand that people are looking to the black market for access. And experts say those shady dealings could continue if the U.S. doesn’t get the vaccine distribution plan working the way it was promised.

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“There are a couple of group practices where if you pay money, you get what is called ‘concierge care’ where you can get better access, quicker access … some of those have managed to buy vaccine and give it out… That’s black market,” said NYU Medical Ethics Professor Arthur Caplan.

There is so much still unknown about the COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan that former-President Donald Trump’s administration put together that there seems to be little accountability for how much vaccine has been given and how much has been produced.

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The new White House administration under President Joe Biden has made it clear that it may be hard to figure it out.

“The confusion around this issue, and we have admitted there is confusion, which speaks to a bigger problem which is what we were left by the prior administration… is much worse that we could have imagined,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a briefing last month.

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And experts say that opens the door for vaccines to enter the black market, since those markets can only flourish when people think they can’t get the vaccine.

Channel 9 could not confirm the going rate of the vaccine on the black market, but experts say it could fluctuate depending the ups and downs of the supply chain.

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Caplan cautions those who may dabble in trying to get the vaccine from an unauthorized supply chain. He said many times after money is exchanged, there will be no appointment and no vaccine provided. And if there is, you may not know if it’s the real thing.

States are becoming more and more aware of the issue as the supply shortage continues.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo threatened fines up to a million dollars and to pull the license of any medical professionals going against CDC vaccination guidelines.

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And in Florida, Sen. Rick Scott called for an investigation after allegations arose of hospital donors being offered vaccine doses in South Florida.

“There is a real risk that money could start diverting trucks,” Caplan said.

So how do you stop it?

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Caplan said you have to work on the logistics to ease people’s fears.

In the meantime, he said, when you find out people are jumping the line, they should be publicly shamed.

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Shannon Butler

Shannon Butler, WFTV.com

Shannon joined the Eyewitness News team in 2013.

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