Officials Concerned Fraudulent Vaccination Cards Pose Danger to Public A stack of COVID-19 vaccination record cards are shown at the Christine E. Lynn Rehabilitation Center in Jackson Memorial hospital, Thursday, April 15, 2021, in Miami. (Wilfredo Lee/AP)
By Brian Freeman | Sunday, 18 April 2021 09:20 PM
A growing number of scams involving coronavirus vaccination cards could undermine people’s safety and damage the success of the largest mass vaccination program in the United States, North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein has warned, The Washington Post reported on Sunday.
Those using false vaccination cards to enter into public places could potentially expose others to risk.
“This is a concern that is national and bipartisan,” Stein said, adding that the proliferation of fake vaccination cards “will extend the pandemic, resulting in more people sick and more people dead.”
Stein has led a campaign with 47 colleagues to demand that eBay and other similar companies crack down on the scams.
The decision by federal officials to use paper cards that are easy to photocopy, instead of a digital tracking system, have increased the potential for fraud.
“This is exactly the scenario that you want to guard against. It undermines the entire effort by having falsified cards out there,” said Jennifer Kates, who oversees global health policy for the Kaiser Family Foundation. “It certainly bolsters the argument for a digitized mechanism – which isn’t a tamper-proof system, but certainly a more secure one.”
Although e-commerce platforms have cracked down on fake cards after recent reports, there are already indications that they are bouncing back, said Saoud Khalifah, chief executive of Fakespot, a company that specializes in discovering online fraud and that began tracking fake vaccine cards in February.
Paul Mango, a former Trump administration official who helped to manage Operation Warp Speed to speed up the development of and distribution of the vaccine, said “there were many complexities, technical and otherwise, associated with digital vaccination tracking, so for exigency purposes, we fell back on vaccination cards.”
Even though state and local immunization registries do store some individual coronavirus vaccination data, officials said there is currently no system available that would permit businesses and organizations to easily check the databases to determine if a visitor has a falsified paper card.
Law enforcement officials said they are very concerned by the possibility that eBay users are taking blank cards from pharmacies or other health-care facilities where they work, with Stein saying that what is particularly troubling is “that’s an instance where it’s an actually authentic card but illegally acquired and sold.”
However, pharmacies insist that they have set up protections to track the blank cards they receive and would know if any cards were taken withoug permission.
Even so, officials have said that it is nearly impossible to get a true picture on the number of Americans who have faked vaccine cards themselves or have purchased them online.
“It’s not the kind of thing that the person buying is going to report. In some ways, they’re complicit,” Stein said. “Anything that’s going to delay the end of this pandemic is incredibly unfortunate and counterproductive. These vaccine cards will do just that.”