US Takes Extra Measures to Secure COVID Vaccine Shipments

COVID-19 vaccines are literally worth more than gold. That’s the kind of value that criminal elements and other bad actors like to exploit.

Behind the scenes, governments and industry are adding new layers of security to prevent them from stealing the new biologic medicines or their digital recipes. The most visible sign that COVID vaccines are no ordinary shipments is the presence of armed US marshals on the floor of distribution centers and in vehicle escorts.

“Throughout the process we’ve been concerned with protecting intellectual property, protecting data as well as physical theft,” US Army Brig. Gen. Michael “Mac” McCurry, the director of security and assurance for Operation Warp Speed, said in an exclusive interview.

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“There’s all kinds of people interested in what we were undertaking. There’s foreign interests [like intelligence services], criminal elements and individuals that just like to cause havoc,” he said, “and groups that might have special interests counter to what we’re delivering.”

Billions of vaccine doses will be shipped worldwide in what is likely the most anticipated pharmaceutical production and immunization campaign in history. Every step of the vaccines’ development has been closely followed by the media. The departure of FedEx and UPS trucks with the first loads of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines was broadcast around the world on television. And with 1.7 million deaths worldwide during the pandemic, manufacturers and logistics companies face unprecedented pressure to rush shipments to the public while also maintaining stringent controls on temperature and delivery accuracy.

Experts say organized crime groups are aware of the value of each vaccine dose and are looking for ways to intercept shipments. Earlier this month IBM’s security subsidiary issued a report on malicious cyber actors targeting the COVID-19 cold chain.

In an unusual move befitting a national emergency, the US government is providing extra security above the stringent steps pharmaceutical companies and their transport providers normally take.

McCurry said Operation Warp Speed, the public-private task force coordinating vaccine logistics, is leveraging a wide array of law enforcement and security capabilities, as well as industry partners such as the Healthcare Distribution Alliance and the Pharmaceutical Cargo Security Coalition.

Operation Warp Speed is led by the departments of Defense and Health and Human Services (HHS). The FBI and Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) are playing key security roles…   American Shipper