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‘Bitcoins for vaccines’ as black marketeers prep for COVID-19 vaccine roll-out

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With COVID-19’s latest mutant strain filling hospital beds all around the world, it’s not surprising that people are anxious to get vaccinated. However, the administration of vaccines isn’t something that will happen overnight, especially since only a few candidates have been approved yet. It’s no wonder then that quite a few people are getting desperate.

This was evident when a recent case of “Bitcoins for Vaccine” surfaced in the Indian state of Karnataka. According to a local newspaper, doctors in the state are reporting that many VIP patients are being offered COVID-19 “vaccines” in exchange for Bitcoins on the black market. The doctors in question are also being harassed by these patients, with many wanting to ascertain the viability of the “vaccines” being offered.

This is an interesting development, but not one that is at all surprising. Black market trades have been around for a long time, and with the COVID-19 pandemic heading into its second year, a parallel economy is bound to flourish. The same was reiterated by bioethicist Arthur Caplan in a recent interview.

However, what is even more interesting is that the world’s largest cryptocurrency continues to be involuntarily associated with such criminal activities.

Consider this – According to Chainalysis’s Crypto Crime Report for the year 2020, “cryptocurrency transactions associated with criminal activity represented just 1.1% of total activity.” While that might sound like a small percentage, 1.1% of the total activity was worth $11.5 billion.

That’s not all. In fact, just a few months ago, Elliptic reported that $1 billion worth of Bitcoins linked to the infamous black market, Silk Road, were on the move.

The present case of “Bitcoins for Vaccines” can be best described as a variant of ransomware. Here, people are not being extorted out of their Bitcoins. Instead, black marketeers are preying on VIP Patients’ concerns and anxieties about a pandemic, one that has already claimed 1.94 million lives worldwide.

In fact, the desperation of these patients can be evidenced by the fact that in India, no COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for sale yet. According to the Private Hospitals’ and Nursing Homes’ Association’s President,

“Even if one of the Covid vaccine candidates is approved abroad, Indian citizens must wait for the government to roll out the product through the Drug Controller General of India.”

This isn’t the first time the world’s largest cryptocurrency is being “asked” in exchange for something in India. Just a few weeks ago, a minor was kidnapped in the same state, with the perpetrators demanding a ransom of 100 BTC.

Even in the USA, Michigan Governor Whitmer was asked to pay a ransom of $2M in Bitcoin for the safety of its employees.


Jibin Mathew George is Editor-in-Chief at AMBCrypto. A domain expert in International Relations (European Politics), he has always been a believer in the unlimited possibilities afforded by blockchain and by extension, cryptocurrencies. As someone who has been watching and writing about this space for over 5 years now, Jibin has closely tracked the emergence of cryptos and digital assets as a separate asset class in portfolios world over. A lawyer by training, he previously contributed to the News and Research desk of Diplomacy & Beyond Plus. Before his stint at D&B, he was Editor at ED Times. Jibin also takes a great interest in politics, especially the corresponding effect political decisions and fiscal policy have on the world of finance, with a special focus on cryptocurrencies.
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