In an effort to crack down on fake vaccination cards, a New York lawmaker has unveiled legislation that would make forging or possessing a counterfeit immunization record a felony.
The bill, introduced by New York Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz (D), will add language to the definition of forgery in the penal law that would allow people who violate the law to be charged with a class D or C felony. A class D felony in New York is punishable by up to seven years in prison while a class C felony is punishable by up to 15 years.
“There can be no tolerance for fraudulent vaccination cards in New York, whether you are buying or selling them. I am confident that this egregious behavior is already illegal according to countless state, local, and federal statutes but we should be explicitly clear in New York: if you get caught with a fake vaccination card, you will go to jail for a long time,” Dinowitz said in a statement.
The measure comes in response to concerns that individuals are seeking to circumvent public health regulations by buying or forging fake cards to use at venues and for activities that require proof of vaccination. Federal authorities issued a notice in late March warning the public about sales of fake COVID-19 vaccination cards amid the emergence of such transactions on digital platforms.
Several media outlets have reported that individuals, in some cases people who claim to be health professionals, were selling these fraudulent immunization records on Etsy, Telegram, and other platforms.
The phenomenon has sparked increased scrutiny from state law enforcement officials who are calling on several big tech and e-commerce companies to crack down on such vendors. A group of 47 attorneys general sent a letter to Twitter, eBay, and Shopify in early April to urge the companies to take action against individuals who are marketing the fake vaccine cards on their platforms.
“The use of your platforms to disseminate the deceptive marketing and sales of fake vaccine cards is a threat to residents of our states. As a result, we are asking you to take immediate action to prevent your platforms from being used as a vehicle to commit these fraudulent and deceptive acts that harm our communities,” the letter read (pdf).
Dinowitz also sent a letter to New York Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker to express his concerns about the new trend and call on the department to take action to crack down on the activity.
The bill also comes as New York and other states are easing pandemic restrictions as the vaccination rates increase across the nation. As of Monday, 44.3 percent of the U.S. adult population has been fully vaccinated, while 71.5 percent of people 65 years and above have been vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.