Next up in our Great American Pandemic Story we are likely to see a wave of stories about vaccination card forgeries — given how easy they are to fake, how many dumb Americans are still avoiding getting vaccinated, and how concerts and other events are going to start requiring people to prove they're vaccinated. And apparently some fake cards have already appeared for sale on places like eBay and Twitter.
Maybe around the Bay Area, where COVID vaccination demand is high and skepticism is low compared to other parts of the state and country, this won't be a major problem. But federal and state authorities are already preparing for a crackdown on faked vaccination cards, and a coalition of 45 attorneys general just co-signed a letter aimed at the CEOs of Twitter, Shopify, and eBay asking them to participate in the crackdown and not allow blank or fraudulently completed cards to be sold on their platforms.
"The false and deceptive marketing and sales of fake COVID vaccine cards threatens the health of our communities, slows progress in getting our residents protected from the virus, and are a violation of the laws of many states," the letter reads. It was dated April 1 and came from the office of the National Association of Attorneys General.
Because the CDC-issued vaccination cards feature the official seal of a federal agency, the FBI has said it will prosecute the distribution of forgeries as a federal crime. It would be "punishable under Title 18 United States Code, Section 1017, and other applicable laws," the FBI said, adding, "do not buy fake vaccine cards, do not make your own vaccine cards, and do not fill-in blank vaccination record cards with false information."
Anyone who loses their card is instructed to return to the provider that gave them their vaccine for a replacement.
North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein tells ABC 7, "We know people have been selling fake vaccine cards." And, he says, ultimately this will necessitate the use of more official and less easily faked vaccine passports, likely in paper and digital forms.
"I expect there will be some form of digital signature," Stein says.
A digital vaccine passport is apparently in the works at the federal level, but it's not yet ready. In Israel, where vaccinations happened more quickly than here, there is an app-based Green Pass that vaccinated people have to show to enter certain establishments. The EU is planning a vaccine passport of its own, and Denmark has rolled out its own, but there will likely be technical glitches and privacy concerns with all of the above.
Also, there's the issue of equity and the fact that not everyone will have a smartphone to use for this purpose. UCSF infectious disease specialist Dr. Malcolm John tells ABC 7, "It will likely need to be both paper and digital for the reasons you mentioned, not everyone has digital access."
California's Health Officer Dr. Tomas Aragon suggests that California may go its own route if the feds screw this up, or if their digital passport isn't released quickly enough.
"We will see what the federal government comes out with," Aragon said in a call with reporters, per ABC 7. "We are also planning to make sure that we come out with if they don't move fast enough with technical stands of what we expect."
Original photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images... alterations ours