COVID-19 vaccine awareness: WCO completes three series of webinars involving the private sector

30 March 2021

The World Customs Organization (WCO) successfully carried out three series of webinars between late January and late March 2021, to raise awareness about COVID-19 vaccines. The first series of webinars was held from 21 to 28 January in collaboration with Pfizer, the second from 15 to 17 March with Moderna, and the third one on 24 and 25 March with AstraZeneca.

The 11 webinars, which brought together more than 1,300 participants in total, focused on the essential specifications of COVID-19 vaccines as well as details of their distribution patterns, the aim being to make Customs better equipped to identify counterfeit or sub-standard COVID-19 vaccines at borders and curb trafficking, notably during this important period of COVID-19 vaccine delivery to governments.

At a time when countries are rolling out large-scale vaccination programmes, it is critical for Customs administrations to be able to identify and fight counterfeit COVID-19 vaccines. In this regard, the information provided by the pharmaceutical companies that have produced the vaccines is crucial in terms of helping WCO Members to maintain the delicate balance between border enforcement and trade facilitation.

During its 137th Session in December 2020, the WCO Council acknowledged the seriousness of the risk to the health and safety of citizens across the world during the global COVID-19 vaccine distribution process, invited the WCO Secretariat and Members to take action; in this connection it adopted the Resolution on the role of Customs in facilitating the cross-border movement of situationally critical medicines and vaccines.

These series of webinars, organized under the WCO Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), Health and Safety Programme, represent the WCO Secretariat’s response to ensuring the full preparedness of Members for the safe and seamless distribution of time- and temperature-sensitive vaccines, as well as preventing organized criminal organizations from exploiting the situation by flooding the markets with dangerous, sub-standard or counterfeit vaccines.

During the month of April 2021, additional webinars will focus on the vaccines produced by the Serum Institute of India and Johnson & Johnson.