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Representational Image
AFP

As the countries gear up to vaccinate the masses against coronavirus, Interpol chief Juergen Stock predicted on Monday a sharp rise in crimes with robbers seeking to get their hands on precious vaccines aimed at stopping the coronavirus pandemic.

"With vaccines rolling out, crime will increase dramatically," Stock told business weekly WirtschaftsWoche, "We will see thefts and warehouse break-ins and attacks on vaccine shipments."

The secretary-general of the France-based global policing agency said he also expected more cases of graft related to COVID-19 vaccines.

"Corruption will be rampant in many places to get the valuable vaccine quicker," he said.

Earlier this month, Interpol had issued a global alert for law enforcement across its 194 member countries warning them to prepare for organised crime networks targeting COVID-19 vaccines, both physically and online.

"As governments are preparing to roll out vaccines, criminal organizations are planning to infiltrate or disrupt supply chains," Stock had said.

He had further said, "Criminal networks will also be targeting unsuspecting members of the public via fake websites and false cures, which could pose a significant risk to their health, even their lives."

"It is essential that law enforcement is as prepared as possible for what will be an onslaught of all types of criminal activity linked to the COVID-19 vaccine, which is why INTERPOL has issued this global warning," he added.

The Interpol has also advised the public to take special care when going online to search for medical equipment or medicines.

"In addition to the dangers of ordering potentially life-threatening products, an analysis by the INTERPOL's Cybercrime Unit revealed that of 3,000 websites associated with online pharmacies suspected of selling illicit medicines and medical devices, around 1,700 contained cyber threats, especially phishing and spamming malware," said the official statement by the Interpol on December 3.

A vaccine produced by German company BioNTech and US giant Pfizer has already been approved for use by 16 countries.

The European Union's EMA is posed to make a similar decision on Monday, with the first jabs to begin in the bloc on Sunday (December 27).

In Germany, federal police will be deployed to secure transportation of the vaccines, which will also be stored in secret places.

Besides the threat of robberies, fears are also running high of possible sabotage by anti-vaxxers.

(With inputs from agencies)

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