American COVID-19 vaccinations are being accelerated by the Government, which is distributing doses directly to U.S. retail pharmacies. NordVPN Teams has observed Americans are becoming increasingly anxious to get their jab with Google searches for the vaccine growing by 1,900% since January.
The U.S. pharmacy chain Walgreens has received 1 million additional COVID-19 vaccine doses over the last week. The retailer has already offered vaccinations in 27 states with this additional batch ensuring they can offer the same service in a further 16. Walgreens began in-store vaccination in February and has been distributing them via Walmart, CVS Health, and Rite Aid since December.
According to Google Trends, together with searches for where to get the COVID-19 vaccine, keywords ‘Walgreens vaccine appointment’ rose by 7,000% in popularity since the beginning of the year, and ‘Walmart COVID vaccine’ also saw a +2,100% increase.
The comparison of all three search terms demonstrates that the American people are prioritizing Walmart pharmacies over traditional pharmacies and healthcare institutions to get their COVID-19 jab. The query is six-times more popular than general inquiries about vaccination appointments and four times as frequent as Walgreens.
Mass vaccination will accelerate phishing campaigns
Although a by-product of positive news, increasing online traffic is becoming a cybersecurity risk. According to a report by Verizon, people are now three times more vulnerable to COVID-related phishing scams — the number of reported cases has increased by 667% since the pandemic began. We should take extra care online as cybercriminals are looking to take advantage of opportunities that are presented as a result of the mass vaccination campaign as well.
“Cybercriminals will target sensitive data by impersonating healthcare institutions or pharmacies, and Americans eager to be vaccinated could willingly disclose these very personal details. This demonstrates how phishing is a major concern today with these types of opportunistic targets,” says Juta Gurinaviciute, the Chief Technology Officer at NordVPN Teams.
The general public is also falling victim to profit-seeking cybercriminals who are falsely advertising vaccine availability online — an obvious scam that Americans should be more aware of. This is despite COVID-19 vaccines being commercially unavailable and distributed with government approval only.
Those already vaccinated should also be cautious. The FBI recently warned against posting CDC vaccination cards on social media, due to a rise in reports of identity theft and fraud. To encourage others to get the jab, people should instead look at other ways to show support — update their profile picture on social media with a sticker for example or speaking directly to their peers instead, without the need for sharing personal details publicly.
Healthcare institutions responsible for legitimate vaccinations should also consider further security measures to protect patient data, given the level of threat that cybercriminals currently pose.