(WIVB) — State lawmakers are cracking down on fake COVID-19 vaccination cards now that health officials are loosening the rules for wearing a face mask. Once the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave the okay, online searches for the bogus cards have been booming.
Lawmakers say just as the demand for vaccinations has been falling in recent weeks, the demand for counterfeit vaccination cards has been going in the opposite direction — up. Now state lawmakers have approved legislation that would raise the penalty for bogus vaccination cards to a felony.
Once the CDC relaxed its guidelines for wearing masks, authorities say, searches for fraudulent vaccination cards blew up the Internet. The Centers for Disease Control now says if you are fully vaccinated, you take off the mask.
Assemblyman Angelo Morinello of Niagara Falls said, “Just think about the fact that we are on an “honor system” right now with the vaccine.”
State Assemblyman Angelo Morinello is one of the sponsors of the measure that passed this week, raising the penalty for knowingly selling or possessing a counterfeit vaccine document to a felony.
“Somebody profiting off of those that may be afraid to get the vaccine, or have not had an opportunity and they are profiting off of it it, I thought it was fair that we stop it, and stop it immediately,” added Morinello.
A 21-year-old Long Island man was arrested a few weeks ago, accused of stealing vaccination cards from his employer, CVS, and trying to sell them to kids for school.
Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder says, “The first eight cards that he had were already pre-filled out with the batch number. As you see, we already took out the lot number and manufacturer name. He also had additionally 54 blank cards with him.”
This is a screen capture of blank vaccination cards, posted on a social media site, sent to us by a viewer. It has since been taken down as the sale could soon be a felony.
“It is a deterrent. If we don’t nip it in the bud we are going to have a lot of forged cards running around, and it is not good. It is not right, Al, it is just not right,” Morinello said.
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The bill that passed in the Assembly applies to other immunizations, not just COVID-19. A companion measure that passed in the Senate was identical. So now it is just a matter of the governor signing it, for the law to take effect immediately.
Al Vaughters is an award-winning investigative reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 1994. See more of his work here.