GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — As North Carolina continues to offer incentives for people to get vaccinated, some are finding ways around getting their COVID-19 shots.
Fake vaccine cards are popping up around the country. Health directors in Eastern North Carolina said with more organizations requiring people to show a vaccine card, we could see even more counterfeits.
“For someone to go online and to buy a fake card to fill that need is a little bit odd,” said Kristen Richmond-Hoover, Onslow County’s public health director. “It’s a little bit nonsensical whenever you can come in, you can get it for free.”
It’s a problem some universities could already be seeing — students submitting phony vaccine cards.
In a tweet earlier this week, a UNC-Chapel Hill professor said he spoke with students who knew how to buy a fake vaccine card and knew someone who submitted one to the university.
Benjamin Mason Meier, a professor of Global Health Policy at UNC, posted on Twitter on Aug. 2 that he spoke to several UNC students who know “exactly how to buy a fake” COVID-19 vaccine card. They also all knew of at least one fellow student who had submitted one to the university.
Some students are willing to pay up to $200 for these bogus cards, officials said.
“People that don’t want to get the shot but they feel like they’re missing out on certain opportunities, I guess seem willing to go through great extents,” said Janell Octigan with the Beaufort County Health Department.
It’s a crime that comes with a hefty fine. The FBI said a fake vaccine card is considered a misuse of a government seal. That comes with a $5,000 fine or five years in prison.
“You’d pay money for that fake vaccine card, as well as if you got caught, you’d be paying a lot of penalties,” said Octigan.
Hoover asked why pay for a fake vaccine card when you can get a real one for free?
“There is no out-of-pocket cost,” she said. “You get to choose the brand that you want.”
Hoover said now is the time to get vaccinated. The delta variant is surging and most severe cases are in unvaccinated people.
“We never said it would be 100 percent effective,” she said. “But we still see that it is strongly effective and even in those who get sick with COVID after being vaccinated, their symptoms are much milder.”
ECU leaders say so far, they aren’t aware of anyone submitting phony vaccine cards. They say presenting a fake card is an honor code violation, and students would be subject to disciplinary action from the university.