Thousands of Counterfeit COVID-19 Vaccination Cards From China Seized in Tennessee

August 15, 2021 Updated: August 16, 2021

More than 3,000 fake COVID-19 vaccination cards from China have been seized by federal agents in Memphis, Tennessee, en route to other cities in the United States.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) caught a shipment from Shenzhen, China, to New Orleans that contained 51 blank counterfeit vaccination cards, CBP said in an Aug. 13 statement.

“It was the 15th such shipment of the night,” the statement reads.

The FBI stated on March 30 that buying, selling, or using counterfeit COVID-19 vaccination cards is a crime, and violators will face a fine and up to five years in prison.

White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients also said on Aug. 13 that it’s “a crime” to falsify COVID-19 vaccination cards, amid new restrictions set by several major cities.

After New York City announced that it would mandate vaccine passports at certain businesses starting next month and as a growing number of colleges and universities across the country are requiring vaccination for students to attend in-person classes, there has been a surge in the fraudulent documents.

counterfeit COVID-19 vaccination cards
The counterfeit COVID-19 vaccination cards that were seized in Memphis, Tenn., in August 2021 come with a CDC logo on the top. (U.S. Customs And Border Protection)

Fake Cards

“This fiscal year to date, Memphis has made 121 seizures totaling 3,017 of these vaccination cards,” the CBP statement reads. “They are always from China.”

The shipments were all described as “Paper Greeting Cards/Use For-Greeting Card” or “PAPER PAPER CARD.”

“The cards have blanks for the recipient’s name and birthdate, the vaccine maker, lot number, and date and place the shot was given, as well as the Centers for Disease Control [and Prevention] (CDC) logo in the upper right corner,” the statement reads.

But CBP officers knew the cards were fake because “it was imported by a non-CDC or medical entity, and this was not the first time they had seen this shipper.”

Such counterfeit cards have typos, unfinished words, and some of the Spanish verbiage on the back was misspelled.

“If you do not wish to receive a vaccine, that is your decision. But don’t order a counterfeit, waste my officers’ time, break the law, and misrepresent yourself,” said Michael Neipert, area port director of Memphis.

COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card
A health care worker displays a COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card during a vaccine and health clinic at QueensCare Health Center in a predominantly Latino neighborhood in Los Angeles, on Aug. 11, 2021. (Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)

Active Black Market

The city and university policies have resulted in an active black market for vaccination cards. On Instagram, Telegram, Reddit, Twitter, and similar social media platforms, users can get the contact information of vaccination card sellers, who sell them from $25 to $200 each. These cards might not be genuine.

According to a tally by The Chronicle of Higher Education, at least 675 colleges and universities require proof of COVID-19 inoculation in the United States. The process to confirm vaccinations at many schools can be as simple as uploading a picture of the vaccine card to the student’s portal, The Associated Press reported on Aug. 9.

While COVID-19 vaccines are easily available across the United States, some people are reluctant to vaccinate because of religious reasons, personal beliefs or philosophical reasons, safety concerns, or a desire for more information from health care providers.

Some social media users share the cases of death and side effects associated with the vaccine, while others express concerns that the vaccination can’t protect people from being infected with COVID-19.

According to USA Facts, 60 percent of Americans had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by Aug. 13, while 51 percent of the population had been fully vaccinated.

Nicole Hao
Nicole Hao is a Washington-based reporter focused on China-related topics. Before joining the Epoch Media Group in July 2009, she worked as a global product manager for a railway business in Paris, France.