COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – As more businesses, schools, and cities begin to require the COVID-19 vaccine, reports are surfacing of fraudsters making, selling, and using fake vaccination cards.
This spring, the FBI warned about false vaccination cards circulating online for sale. In July, the Department of Justice announced the arrest of a naturopathic doctor in Northern California. The agency said the doctor gave patients false vaccine cards and homeopathic remedies claiming they would help the body fight off COVID-19.
The DOJ said that misrepresenting the official seal of a U.S. agency, like the CDC logo on the vaccine cards, could be a violation of federal law. Violators could face up to five years in prison or a $5,000 fine.
Both the Ohio Department of Health and Columbus Public Health said the paper COVID-19 vaccination card will likely remain the official proof of vaccination status for the foreseeable future. Neither agency tracks fraudulent cards or issues penalties.
In a statement, a spokesperson from ODH said:
“It is important to keep updated medical and vaccination records, whether that is for someone’s latest tetanus shot, the shingles vaccine, or their COVID-19 vaccination records. All Ohioans are encouraged to keep track of their COVID-19 vaccination card just like they would any other important medical record. To be clear, the COVID-19 Vaccination Card is currently the standard way to show proof of vaccination if requested by a medical provider or other entity requiring proof of vaccination.”
Ohio Wesleyan University is among a handful of institutions in Ohio requiring everyone to get the COVID-19 vaccine. A spokesperson for the school explained all incoming students, staff, and faculty must upload a photo of their vaccination card online.
The Ohio State University is not requiring a shot, but it is requiring everyone to report their vaccination status. An online form in the university’s portal system requires the user to input information from the vaccination card.
Both systems, in part, rely on the honor system. Several Ohio State students told NBC4 they wouldn’t expect their peers to lie about vaccination statuses, and they hope everyone will keep the university community’s best interest in mind.
“I think it’s important. I think people need to take steps to try to limit the spread of COVID,” said Aidan Geis, a senior at OSU.
Grad student Yechan Moon added, “I want everyone to be vaccinated but I can’t say I want everyone to be forced to be vaccinated.”
According to the Federal Trade Commission, some states, businesses, and schools create their own verification services, like apps, digital passports, or certificates. Neither ODH nor Columbus Public Health has current plans to create their own localized systems.