The global COVID-19 immunization effort is underway. Israel, the United States, and other countries have started vaccination campaigns, some more successful than others. As millions around the world are receiving shots, global supply chain entities need to be on high alert to prevent cyberattacks from compromising the vaccine effort.
Israel’s Vaccine Success
Israel’s immunization drive launched on December 19 with several million doses of the two-phase Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Since then, Israel has led the global immunization effort by vaccinating almost two million of its citizens. The first round of vaccines was mainly available mostly to those over 60, health workers, or those with underlying health conditions.
Immediately after receiving the first dose, a second dose was scheduled three weeks later. After both doses, a person receives a “green” passport and can travel internationally without the need to quarantine. In Israel, where healthcare is socialized, access to the vaccine is as simple as calling a healthcare provider/going online and making an appointment.
Israel’s success has created competition among world health ministries who have been pressuring big pharma companies to sell to them, not to Israel. The pressure has made it difficult for Israel to negotiate more vaccines, though a breakthrough with Pfizer has led to a shipment of the vaccine, which arrived this past week.
The United States’ Slow Start
It is hard to compare the US to Israel in terms of vaccinations because the US is so much larger. However, in terms of doses given per 100 people, the US lags behind Israel, the UAE, Bahrain, and the UK. Israel leads the world by far with 22.07 doses per 100 people, while the United States has reached only 2.72 people per 100.
The US vaccine campaign began December 14 with a goal to vaccinate 20 million by the end of 2020. As of January 12th “according to data from the CDC, 25,480,725 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been distributed to states, and 8,987,322, or about 35.3% of them have been given out.” The country secured both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, both needing two doses to be effective.
The US healthcare system has proved daunting, with citizens reporting difficulty on how and where to get the vaccine. With no central plan for implementation, states have been tasked with carrying out their own immunization campaigns, and some are succeeding more than others.
Security Challenges of the Coronavirus Vaccine
While world governments are scrambling to secure sufficient doses of viable vaccines, the numerous steps in the distribution process present targets for malicious cyberattacks. For example, the Pfizer vaccine must be stored and transported at -70 degrees Celsius, a weak point attackers can take advantage of.
We saw this happen in early December, when IBM discovered an email phishing scam aimed at cold-chain suppliers across six countries. Security experts think the scam intended to gather credentials to gain unauthorized access to sensitive information relating to future vaccine distribution.
The attack is thought to have been perpetrated by an unknown nation-state, but foreign governments can cause potentially greater damage by tampering with the temperature and destroying massive quantities of vaccines. Additionally, transport boxes holding the vaccines are fitted with GPS trackers, providing another potential target for attackers.