New WCO project on Customs control of fake vaccines and other illicit goods related to COVID-19


The distribution of COVID-19 vaccines is of primary importance to every nation, and the transportation of vaccines across borders is becoming the world’s largest and fastest operation ever. Consequently, there is a risk that criminal syndicates may attempt to exploit the situation.

In response to this risk, and to address the threat posed by illegal products such as dangerous, sub-standard or counterfeit medicines and vaccines, the World Customs Organization (WCO) has just launched a new initiative entitled “Project on the urgent need for facilitation and coordinated Customs control of cross-border consignments linked to COVID-19”.

The aim of this project is to stop cross-border consignments of fake vaccines and other illicit goods linked to COVID-19, while ensuring the smooth movement of the corresponding, legitimate shipments.

“In the context of the pandemic, it is crucial that Customs facilitates, to the greatest extent possible, legitimate trade in vaccines, medicines and medical supplies linked to COVID-19. However, Customs also has a determinant role to play in the fight against the illicit trade in similar sub-standard or counterfeit goods to protect societies,” said WCO Secretary General Dr. Kunio Mikuriya.

This project is part of the actions referred to in the WCO Council Resolution adopted in December 2020 on the Role of Customs in Facilitating the Cross-Border Movement of Situationally Critical Medicines and Vaccines.  

Its objectives include the application of a coordinated Customs approach, in close cooperation with vaccine-producing companies and the transport industry as well as with other international organizations, to the control of international trade flows of these goods.

Also envisaged under this initiative is the use of updated versions of CEN applications to analyze new trends in illicit trade, as well as capacity building activities to raise awareness on trade in fake vaccines and other illicit goods.