MSU Extension Service warns of COVID-19 vaccine scams

Coronavirus

STARKVILLE, Miss. (WJTV) – The Mississippi State University Extension Service announced consumers need to be wary of potential fraud related to the COVID-19 vaccine as it is rolled out. Those who have not yet scheduled an appointment to receive their first dose will be waiting another month.

Becky Smith, a family financial management specialist with the MSU Extension Service, said two of the most important facts to keep in mind about the vaccine is that it will be free of charge, and it will require an appointment to receive.

“Scammers never miss an opportunity to capitalize on the latest crisis, and they are constantly adapting their methods to swindle as many people as possible,” she said. “The rule of thumb in this situation is to not trust anyone who contacts you offering a vaccine, and be on the lookout for different ways they may try to do that.”

No legitimate organization will ask for Social Security, credit card or bank account information.

“Phishers may try to contact unsuspecting people through phone calls, texts, emails or social media,” Smith said. “There is a good chance that someone trying to sell you a vaccine is really just trying to steal your money or identity. You will not have to pay out of pocket to receive the vaccine. Anyone who receives these types of solicitations should report them to the state attorney general’s office.

“No health department or Medicare representative will call or visit you unprompted to help you schedule an appointment,” she said. “When the next shipment arrives, you will have to schedule one online or over the phone to get your vaccine.”

No one can pay for early access to the vaccine or have shots delivered to their residence, and any such offers are fraudulent.

“You should get your vaccination only from your doctor, a hospital or clinic, or a licensed pharmacy. There will be no do-it-yourself versions of the vaccine,” said MSU Extension health specialist David Buys. “Do not respond to emails, phone calls or online ads from people or organizations you don’t know who are trying to sell or send you a vaccine, and don’t click on any links they send you, as those could download viruses on your device.”

The federal government has paid for all the doses that will be distributed in the U.S.

“If someone tries to charge you money for the vaccine, that may be a sign they are not a distributor you can trust,” Buys said. “However, some clinics may charge to give you the vaccine shot (not for the vaccine itself), so not all fees associated with the vaccine are suspicious.”

Two doses of vaccine are necessary to be protected against COVID-19. Patients who have already received their first dose should still be able to schedule their second. The manufacturers for the vaccine shipments received by Mississippi providers are Moderna and Pfizer, but others may be approved.

“The COVID-19 vaccines are not interchangeable, so if you get a Pfizer dose the first time, your second dose must also be from Pfizer,” Buys said. “You will receive a reminder card, and you may also receive a text message notice.”

For more information on COVID-19 scams, click here.

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