Countering the Counterfeiters

Countering the Counterfeiters

Countering the Counterfeiters -how our battery-free RFID sensor label saves time, money and lives.
Blog post by Tony Kington

Whenever demand outstrips supply, criminals will seize the opportunity to fill the gap. Sadly, even COVID-19 vaccinations are not immune to unscrupulous profiteers.

In April the BBC reported that fake vaccines, bearing counterfeit Pfizer labels, had been administered to 80 people at a clinic in Mexico. While the substance with which they were injected was not believed to be harmful, it provided zero protection against COVID-19, which the World Health Organisation (WHO) describes as a “serious risk to global public health,” since people receiving fake vaccines may adjust their behaviour and harm their own and other people’s health, unaware they are still vulnerable to the virus.

A month earlier, INTERPOL reported that its Illicit Goods and Global Health Programme had disrupted criminal distribution networks and recovered 400 ampoules of fake vaccine in Gauteng, South Africa, and 8,000 ampoules in China. INTERPOL Secretary General, Jürgen Stock, described the haul as ‘the tip of the iceberg’ in counterfeit vaccines.

In March, CNBC also reported the warning from WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who said, “We urge the secure disposal or destruction of used and empty vaccine vials to prevent them from being reused by criminal groups,”

Anticipating this crime trend, one of our partners, Lyngsoe Systems A/S, wanted to develop a way to provide healthcare providers with a robust vaccine vial management system that provides a complete audit trail from lab to clinic. Lyngsoe requested our help with the development of a battery-free RFID label which would provide condition monitoring of vaccines in transit and storage.

Together with our silicon partner, Axzon, we developed a proof of concept which combined our custom-developed antenna and passive RFID label with Axzon’s Magnus® Chameleon™ Engine technology, which provides the capability to measure liquid volume, temperature and moisture.

Liquid volume measurement is enabled by using the antenna autotune feature. As liquid volume increases, or decreases within a vessel, this causes a change in impedance, which is sensed by the antenna of the imbedded inlay or label. Subsequent adjustment in antenna tuning, represented in bits, can be translated to a volume measurement on a reader. The antenna impedance is reported to the reader as a 5-bit sensor code. RFID-enabled labels and integrated antenna designs are optimized for volume measurement to suit specific vials or containers.

The technology is a perfect fit for vaccine administration management, where vaccine authentication, liquid volume, consumption, and temperature can be measured with a level of accuracy that will ensure safe application.

By integrating our specially developed RFID sensor label with its monitoring software, running on its mobile workstation and RFID reader, Lyngsoe Systems demonstrated to pharmaceutical companies how the low-cost labels could be used to measure both the liquid volume and temperature of individual vials, to deliver an end-to-end vaccine vial management system that saves time, money and lives.

Benefitting from RFID, the combined Lyngsoe, Omni-ID, Axzon solution allows up to 200 vaccine vial labels to be read at once, from 1.5 metres away, speeding the process of verifying the origin, authenticity and safety of supplies as they are received and transferred to freezers and fridges before dilution and administration.

To reassure clinicians that vaccines are authentic, each smart label carries a unique identifier, digital signature and serial number, which automatically expire once the vial is empty, to prevent resale and re-use of labels by criminal organisations.

Our unique liquid and temperature monitoring labels and Lyngsoe’s monitoring software allow healthcare providers to ensure that the correct, safe dosage is given to each person and that the liquid being administered is a genuine vaccine that has not been tampered with in transit.

The resulting solution has broad applications in pharmaceutical, medical and cold-chain management and demonstrates the value of our open, technology-agnostic approach to solving customers’ unique requirements.

Stay tuned for further updates on how our smart sensor labels are being applied within a range of use cases from pharmaceuticals to farming, and diaper-changing to datacentre management.

References:

BBC, 22nd April 2021, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-56844149

INTERPOL, 3rd March 2021, https://www.interpol.int/en/News-and-Events/News/2021/Fake-COVID-vaccine-distribution-network-dismantled-after-INTERPOL-alert

TIME https://time.com/5943581/interpol-face-covid-vaccine/

CNBC,  26th March 2021, ‘World Health Organisation warns against sales of counterfeit COVID vaccines on the dark web’ https://www.cnbc.com/2021/03/26/who-warns-against-sales-of-counterfeit-covid-vaccines-on-the-dark-web.html

News North Eastern, How to spot a counterfeit COVID-19 vaccine,’ 3rd December 2020 https://news.northeastern.edu/2020/12/03/how-to-spot-a-fake-counterfeit-covid-19-vaccines/

Axzon https://axzon.com/products/

Axzon Magnus Chameleon Engine http://rfmicron.com/technology/chameleon/

Lyngsoe Systems – ‘Lyngsoe Systems introduces a new unique logistics management system,’ 18th January 2021 https://lyngsoesystems.com/news/we-introduces-a-new-unique-logistics-management-system-to-provide-the-necessary-oversight-temperature-monitoring-and-support-to-strengthen-and-secure-the-covid-19-vaccinations-process/

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