Fake COVID-19 Vaccination Cards a Concern for Colleges

A number of colleges are requiring students to show proof of vaccination, but are they ready to spot fakes and mete out appropriate discipline for violations?

Fake COVID-19 Vaccination Cards a Concern for Colleges

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According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, at least 664 colleges and universities are requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccinations for students to be admitted this fall.  It’s set up the perfect storm for the production of fake vaccination cards. A new cottage industry has emerged, selling fakes for anywhere from $25 to $200, reports Fortune.

“The United States, unlike most countries which have electronic systems in place, is basing its vaccination on a flimsy paper card,” Benjamin Mason Meier, a global health policy professor at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill, told the Associated Press.. “There need to be policies in place for accountability to make sure that every student is operating in the collective interest of the entire campus.”

The emergence of fake vaccination cards comes as no surprise to many university staff and faculty, and they acknowledge it’s impossible to have a foolproof system.

“This is why I think the development of a reliable national digital vaccine passport app is very important for the sake of all the organizations and businesses that want to require proof of vaccination for employees, students, or business patrons,” said Rebecca Williams, a research associate at UNC’s Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention.

The FBI is getting involved. In March it issued a joint statement with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services making unauthorized use of the seal of a government agency such as the HHS or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention a federal crime.

Additionally, a bipartisan coalition of 47 state attorneys general sent a letter to the CEOs of Twitter, Shopify and eBay to take down all ads or links selling fake vaccination cards.

Already one individual involved in a vaccination card scheme has been arrested and charged with one count of wire fraud and one count of false statements related to health care matters.

Colleges and universities that require proof of vaccination also have ways they can address the issue of fake COVID vaccination documents, reports USA Today. Erika K. Wilson, a professor of law at the UNC Chapel Hill told the publication that it wouldn’t be hard for institutions to verify the legitimacy of these cards, saying most county health departments have records of who got the shots.

Once a school discovers the fake vaccination card, it could be seen as a violation of community standards or an instance of academic dishonesty. Multiple institutions told USA Today that expulsion is being considered as a possible disciplinary option for students who present fake COVID vaccination cards.

Additionally, some universities have announced additional fees for those who are not vaccinated, reports ABC News. The fees are to help pay for the COVID-19 testing that will be required of them. The fees can be steep. For example, West Virginia Wesleyan College will be charging a non-refundable $750 COVID fee for students who don’t provide proof of vaccination by September 7.

About the Author

Robin Hattersley Gray
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Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

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