A clandestine “clinic” in a México state house where children were illegally vaccinated against COVID-19 was promptly dismantled by its operators after a media report exposed its existence.
The Milenio media group reported Tuesday night that a house in a residential area of Atizapán de Zaragoza – a municipality in the greater Mexico City metropolitan area – was functioning as a vaccination center for children as young as five as well as adolescents and adults.
The first shot of a Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine cost US $150 for children while a second shot of the first two vaccines cost $100. Adults had to pay $150 for a single booster shot. It is unclear how many people were vaccinated at the clandestine clinic, but it only began operating last Friday, reports suggest.
The vaccines apparently came from Texas and recipients were reportedly given an official United States vaccination record card.
The federal government hasn’t offered shots to children aged under 15, with the exception of those 12 and over who have an underlying health condition that makes them vulnerable to serious illness if they contract COVID. Private health care providers are prohibited from importing, selling and administering COVID-19 vaccines in Mexico.
According to a report by the newspaper Milenio, an Aguascalientes-based company called Tancastev Trading was operating the clandestine clinic in Atizapán. It reportedly told people that it had an agreement with a clinic in Laredo, Texas, to administer vaccines in Mexico.
Appointments were scheduled via email and required a $50 deposit. Appointments were also reportedly scheduled for Aguascalientes and San Luis Potosí earlier this month.
Milenio reported that a white women with a United States accent was responsible for administering the vaccines at the México state house.
Shortly after Milenio Televisión broadcast a report about the illegal vaccination center on Tuesday night, the house was vacated and all evidence was removed, according to neighbors.
By Wednesday morning the clinic had been dismantled and its operators had vanished, Milenio said.
Officials from the health regulator Cofepris and the México state Attorney General’s Office visited the house on Wednesday but no vaccines or medical equipment were found, the newspaper said.
The Cofepris representatives said that a criminal complaint would be filed against the operators of the clinic. The regulator said in a statement that it would collaborate with law enforcement agencies on the case.
It also said that an “active pharmaceutical monitoring group dedicated to this case” had been established and called on the parents of children vaccinated at the makeshift clinic or any other clandestine vaccination centers to report any adverse reactions to a Cofepris email address.
“Any product commercialized as a COVID-19 vaccine, regardless of its packaging, brand or location, constitutes a fraud and is a risk to health due to being of doubtful origin,” Cofepris said.
“… The application of the vaccine … is free and each batch must be inspected and analyzed by regulatory authorities to check its effectiveness and safety,” the statement said.
Francisco González, the owner of the house where vaccines were illegally administered to children, told Milenio that he had loaned his property to an acquaintance.
González denied involvement in the scheme and said he would file a complaint against him.
According to Milenio, there are “a handful of entrepreneurs” who are illegally offering COVID-19 vaccines in Mexico. It didn’t name the others.
Health authorities have administered just under 162.9 million COVID-19 vaccine doses in Mexico, according to the latest data, while some Mexicans have traveled to the United States to get a shot. Children aged five and older are eligible for vaccination in the U.S.
With reports from Milenio