Robert Burns once said that “the best laid plans of mice and men, oft go astray…” The echoes of that wisdom are reverberating as we continue to endure the COVID-19 pandemic. It seems more and more certain that this highly contagious and quickly mutating virus will be with us, with the whole world, for the long haul. Managing a prolonged pandemic and the associated quarantines, mask mandates, and need for vaccines is anything but simple. It should come as no surprise that there is no single, simple solution either. At one point the demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) was so great in France that the French government appealed for help from French luxury brands. Spirits and perfume producers answered the call and pitched in to produce sanitizing spirits. The European Union even backed the French project to turn hundreds of millions of liters of unsold wine into hand sanitizer.

Despite stories of that kind of determination, counterintuitive problems taunt the world’s efforts to manage the pandemic. The French produced and purchased too many face masks – millions more than they needed and many more than the French really wanted to use. Despite this, French hospitals still had nurses begging for face masks, despite PPE sitting idle in warehouses due to the disconnect between need and supply. It didn’t take long before counterfeit products like masks and covid-19 test kits were introduced into the chaos and those counterfeit products continue to make their way into the market even now.

“…Meanwhile the urgent need for personal protective equipment (PPE) has opened up a new field for ineffective, overpriced or even non-existent goods. Two factors have helped the criminals: the waiving of normal procurement controls by governments desperate to protect their health workers; and the impossibility of arranging face-to-face meetings between customers and suppliers.”

THE ECONOMIST – “The Pandemic is Creating Fresh Opportunities For Organized Crime”– May 16, 2020
Creating a way to confirm product authenticity, using a smartphone to scan secured QR codes printed on packaging, introduces a critical anti-counterfeiting feature

Fake face masks are one thing, but fake covid-19 test kits are certainly more worrisome. Counterfeit test kits and test kits that were never intended to function were already being discovered in shipments by government customs services, like the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, in 2020. By the last quarter of 2021, data showed clearly that the most effective way governments could manage the pandemic was to obtain and distribute COVID-19 vaccine until as many people as possible had received a full course of vaccination. Most developed countries have administered vaccines to at least half of their population, despite even the E.U. having early vaccine shortages and problems with timely vaccine order deliveries. Yet some countries, like Portugal, are finding that their vaccination campaign success means they’ve run out of people to vaccinate. Less developed countries on the South American and African continents continue to deal with problems though: vaccine supplies, as well as disinformation about the safety of vaccines, have proven to be stubborn foes. By and large though, vaccinations will continue to be the first port of call for countries to manage their infection rates and fending off cases that require hospitalization. That’s why the latest discoveries of counterfeit products and fake Covid-19 vaccines are alarming.

Scantrust was founded because of a growing and acute counterfeit problem in all countries and across industries. The relevance now is hardly more obvious. Since it’s founding, Scantrust has become an innovator in connected packaging technology with turnkey tools that help companies digitize their products, track the efficient distribution of goods and products, add anti-counterfeiting features to products, and engage with consumers through QR codes and other IoT tags. A little help from technology can’t hurt, and when it comes to supply chains and authenticity, well as Robbie Burns might have said, it’s high time we get to work.

Featured image by WONG CAMPION / REUTERS