U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is calling on federal agencies to crack down on the growing market for counterfeit Covid-19 vaccination cards.
Schumer, speaking at a Manhattan press conference on Sunday, said phony cards now are being peddled on the internet, and even are being produced in China and other places overseas and smuggled into the country.
In a press release issued by his office, the senator pointed out that buying or selling fake vaccination cards is a federal crime punishable by up to five years in prison, plus a fine. He called on the FBI, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the federal Department of Health and Human Services to combine forces to tackle the problem.
“Fake vaccination cards have been advertised on social media, blogs and more, and now, new signs point to ramp-up production of fake cards with government logos overseas via countries like China,” Schumer said.
“Just yesterday, a bust in Tennessee revealed Chinese counterfeiters are looking to cash in on vaccine hesitation and distribute these faux cards. That’s why we need a federal crackdown and an educational campaign to make clear this is illegal and that there is an even easier solution for those who are looking to buy or sell fake vaccine cards, and it is: to get the vaccine.”
Schumer also cautioned that those who have a real vaccination card should not post it on social media because the information could be used in the process of making a counterfeit card.
He said fake vaccine cards will become a big problem in the coming months unless a crackdown is launched and the law made clear.
Schumer’s call for action came two days before New York City implements strict new regulations for proof of vaccination in public spaces.
The de Blasio administration beginning Tuesday is requiring proof of vaccination for most indoor dining, entertainment and fitness locations.
Acceptable forms of proof include:
• a photo or hard copy of a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention card;
• the NYC Covid Safe app;
• the New York State Excelsior app;
• an official vaccine record; or
• a photo or hard copy of an official vaccination record of a vaccine administered outside the United States for one of the following vaccines: AstraZeneca/SK Bioscience, Serum Institute of India/COVISHIELD and Vaxzevria, Sinopharm or Sinovac.
De Blasio, in a transcript of a Monday press conference provided by his office, said the city has stepped up its education initiative to help businesses know what is expected of them.
Penalties for noncompliant businesses, starting at $1,000 for a first offense, will not be enforced until Sept. 13.
At Monday’s press conference, city Health Commissioner Dr. David Chokshi said anyone caught using a fake vaccination card could be prosecuted for fraud.
“Don’t even think about falsifying because it could be very, very serious, serious consequences if you do,” de Blasio said.
But the mayor seemed to hedge when asked about exactly how seriously the city would conduct enforcement against those carrying fake cards.
“So, what we’re going to do is focus on civilian agencies, of course, Department of Health, which plays such a big role right now in regulating restaurants,” he said. “But civilian agencies, variety of agencies will be mobilized; depending on the situation we also have the ability to bring in the Sheriff’s Office if needed. But I think what we’re going to see, again, is that people are going to realize that this is important and that it’s important to do it right. If we get any indication of falsification of vaccination cards, again, that’s exactly the kind of situation where you bring in the Sheriff for.”