Theft and fraud are becoming huge patient safety issues and the patchwork nationwide approach to COVID-19 vaccine distribution isn’t helping, claim experts. While many cases of medical theft and diversion have recently been found vis-a-vis the COVID-19 vaccine, some are never detected. In the past, medications like opioids were at a higher risk of being stolen for sale or use. Now, however, the highly valuable COVID-19 vaccine is the primary target.
It is easy to control theft in a manufacturing plant where there are tight security measures in place, but as the medication moves through the chain of custody and gets closer you get to the patient, the harder it becomes to keep track of it and the chances of it being stolen increase significantly.
Experts believe that the decentralized and ad hoc approach to COVID-19 vaccine management in America is making matters worse. For instance, pharmacists in many locations are bestowed with the duty of delivering medications to nursing homes in their personal vehicles. This means that some unethical pharmacists can nick certain medications for themselves or divert them as they please. The fragmented controls certainly pose a challenge and will lead to more diversions down the line.
While some organizations are doing a great job investing in security and infrastructure, a lot of facilities do not have the resources to do that. Some companies are employing machine learning and analytics to flag suspicious signs relating to strange medication behavior. But, experts say that the danger of vaccine pilfering may go beyond physical security and entail a cyber element as well.
If sensitive information like the formulas to make the vaccine are stolen, rival nations or rogue laboratories could potentially produce illegal vaccines and sell them on the black market. Additionally, there is the risk of distribution plans
being discovered online, turning cybercriminals into regular criminals who track down and steal shipments to sell.
Regular user behavior on the network can be learnt and abnormal activities like unusual access to sensitive research can be learnt with the help of behavioral analytics tools. Security analytics can also detect if this information is being sent to suspicious locations or IP addresses and instantly alert security teams.
At the end of the day, vaccine theft and diversion is a patient safety issue and the health of the global population and global economy is dependant on how well pharmaceutical companies safeguard the vaccine supply and distribution chain to get enough people immunized against COVID-19.