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As the highly contagious delta variant spreads, places like universities, restaurants, and even New York City are requiring proof of vaccination against COVID-19. In most places that means producing the original or a copy of the CDC-issued vaccination card.
With vaccination rates just having reached 50% of the population, some anti-vaxx individuals are scrambling to still be allowed in vaccinated-only spaces by using counterfeit vaccine cards. Are there legal consequences for doing so?
A lucrative online business buying and selling fake vaccine cards has sprung up in recent months, with some users paying $200 for a counterfeit card. Online sellers like Amazon and Etsy are working to remove listings in compliance with federal law and company policies, but the problem persists across the internet.
Not only do unvaccinated individuals endanger public health by not complying with CDC guidelines, but they can also face serious legal penalties for forging vaccination records. Forging the CDC seal that appears on real vaccine cards is a federal offense that can be penalized with fines or up to five years in prison.
The FBI has urged members of the public not to buy fake vaccine cards or post pictures of their legitimate vaccination cards, fearing that these images will make forging the documents easier. The New York State Senate also recently passed legislation to make using fake COVID-19 vaccination cards a felony.
In May, a California man was arrested for selling fake vaccination cards after an undercover sting operation exposed the scheme. Another California resident, this one a doctor, was arrested in July for providing patients with falsified immunization cards and fake COVID-19 treatments.
Additionally, two travelers from the U.S. were fined almost $16,000 each for using fake vaccine cards on a trip to Canada. The problem extends even further internationally, with forged proofs of vaccination also becoming a concern in Europe. International travelers may soon be required to demonstrate proof of vaccination to enter certain countries.
Instead of shelling out hundreds of dollars for an illegal fake vaccine card, remember that the real vaccine is both free and safe!