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An international consortium of multidisciplinary researchers and specialists has developed a new method to counter the problem of COVID-19 vaccine falsification

Advanced Laser Spectroscopy © Prof. Paul Newton, Nuffield Department of Medicine

There have been numerous instances of vaccine supply chains being infiltrated by falsified products, both for vaccines before the pandemic and for COVID-19 around the globe1. Since the emergence of COVID-19 and its immunisation programs worldwide, there have been over 184 public domain reports across 48 countries of diverted and substandard or falsified COVID-19 vaccines2.

Apart from endangering the public, by not effectively protecting people from COVID-19, these incidences also risk undermining trust in vaccines. As such, it is critically important that we maintain integrity of supply chains by detecting falsified products rapidly and effectively. To address this global health issue of falsified and substandard medical products, the World Health Organization (WHO) Member States adopted a PREVENT, DETECT, and RESPOND strategy.

Currently though, there are no effective, readily accessible systems with rapid turnaround for vaccine identification to screen stocks at multiple locations in the supply chains. The detection of falsified vaccines relies on analysis that can only be performed in specialised laboratories.

In response to the need to develop new methods to screen stocks, a consortium of world leading experts convened in 2020 consisting of representatives from:

  • Oxford University Nuffield Department of Medicine, Department of Biochemistry, Kavli Institute for Nanoscience Discovery and Department of Chemistry
  • Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)
  • World Health Organization, Geneva
  • Agilent Technologies
  • Serum Institute of India
  • University of Huddersfield
  • University of East London

In line with WHO strategy, this multidisciplinary and multi-institutional research consortium has developed a new method of effectively and efficiently detecting falsified vaccines, which is described today (20/10/23) in the journal, Vaccine. Their study demonstrates the viability of handheld Spatially Offset Raman Spectroscopy (SORS) to rapidly authenticate COVID-19 vaccines through unopened vaccine vials.

Read the full story on the Department of Biochemistry website.