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Amazon bars 1 million products for false coronavirus claims

Amazon also removed tens of thousands of deals from merchants merchant offers that it said attempted to price-gouge customers.

February 28, 2020 / 08:15 AM IST

Amazon.com Inc has barred more than 1 million products from sale in recent weeks that had inaccurately claimed to cure or defend against the coronavirus, the company told Reuters on Thursday.

Amazon also removed tens of thousands of deals from merchants merchant offers that it said attempted to price-gouge customers.

The world's largest online retailer has faced scrutiny over the health-related offers on its platform, and earlier this week Italy launched a probe into surging prices around the internet for sanitizing gels and hygiene masks while it battled the biggest outbreak in Europe.

The coronavirus has caused at least 2,797 deaths globally. New reported infections around the world now exceed those from mainland China, where the flu-like disease arose two months ago out of an illegal wildlife market. Governments from Australia to Iran have closed schools, scrapped events and stockpiled medical supplies to contain the virus's spread.

One offer comparison site showed recent examples of higher-than-usual prices for masks on Amazon made by U.S. industrial conglomerate 3M Co .

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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A merchant Thursday offered a 10-pack of N95 masks for $128, a Reuters reporter saw when clicking through the buying options on Amazon. That was up from a recent seller average price of $41.24, according to the tracking website camelcamelcamel.com. The item was no longer available in a check later in the day.

A two-pack respirator was offered new at $24.99 earlier this week by a third-party seller, up from a recent average of $6.65 when sold by Amazon, the price-following site showed.

"There is no place for price gouging on Amazon," a spokeswoman said in a statement, citing the company's policy that product information must be accurate and that Amazon can take down offers that hurt customer trust, including when pricing "is significantly higher than recent prices offered on or off Amazon."

It declined to specify the exact threshold at which an item is considered unfairly priced.

The company said it has monitored for price spikes and false claims through a mix of automated and manual review of listings.
Reuters
first published: Feb 28, 2020 08:04 am

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