The COVID-19 pandemic has brought countless challenges to governments around the world, each country trying to keep its people safe and regulate public spaces without infringing on the personal freedoms of its citizens.
With the rise of the Delta variant, vaccination of the public is being encouraged now more than ever. In response to the rising cases, proof of vaccination is now increasingly becoming more common to gain entry into certain businesses, events, states and countries.
The public has responded to these vaccination requirements in a variety of ways. While the original intention of these policies was to encourage those previously on the fence to get vaccinated, a new illegal underground system has started to develop, in which the hot commodity is a fake vaccine card.
New Jersey resident Jasmine Clifford was arrested for selling fake vaccine cards through her Instagram account “AntiVaxMomma.” Clifford sold approximately 250 fake CDC cards for $200 each over the past few months. These cards were then illegally entered into New York’s vaccine database by Clifford’s co-conspirator, Nadayza Barkley, for an additional $250, which allowed the buyer to enjoy the benefits allotted to vaccinated individuals such as attending concerts and sporting events.
The charges against Clifford include conspiracy and offering a false instrument and may result in her potentially facing prison time. This type of situation would seem unfathomable a year ago; however, the two women were able to sell these cards not only to average citizens but to healthcare and hospice workers as well.
While these buyers were able to temporarily avoid tipping off law enforcement, other attempts at duping security have not been as successful. Just last week, an Illinois woman was arrested after being caught using a fake vaccine card to avoid Hawaii’s mandatory 10-day quarantine for unvaccinated individuals. The woman was caught after spelling “Moderna” as “Maderna,” tipping law enforcement off to check her medical records, proving she had not been vaccinated and had falsified the document.
Attempts at falsifying vaccination cards have been rising throughout the United States and are even becoming a growing threat to colleges and universities’ vaccination requirements. The increasing number of young adult buyers of fake vaccination cards can be partially explained by universities requiring proof of vaccination to enter on-campus facilities and sporting events. College and university staff have begun voicing their concerns over the fake documents and are trying to find new ways of ensuring the cards are legitimate.
Ensuring the legitimacy of vaccination cards is a global issue, and governments are trying innovative approaches to proving vaccination. As of Sep. 1 in Québec, Canada, a vaccine passport will be required for all indoor activities and to enter “non-essential activities” such as restaurants, sporting events, cinemas and outdoor events. These “passports” are displayed in the form of a QR code which is to be shown along with a photo ID to gain entry into any of the locations requiring vaccination.
This policy has been met with lots of controversy by the citizens of Québec, many of whom gathered mask-less in the streets of downtown Montréal to protest the new policy. The National Assembly of Québec was also met with backlash for requiring mandatory vaccination for healthcare workers, something less than half of U.S. states have required their healthcare employees to do.
Similarly, the European Union has also implemented its version of a vaccine passport in the form of a certificate. This certificate can be issued to individuals to allow them to travel freely across borders of EU member states, a policy central to the values of the EU that was temporarily suspended during the early days of the pandemic.
There is no one solution to the prevention of falsifying vaccination documents, but the concern over the increasing number of people looking to purchase these cards has made this a pressing issue for the United States. With policies changing every week, it is hard to predict what will the future of providing vaccination evidence will be but looking to other countries and regional governments may provide future guidance.