PSA to Trump Revanchists and Anti-Vaxxers: Making Fake CDC Vaccination Cards Is a Federal Crime

{Pro-coronavirus protesters outside the CDC headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia on March 13, 2021, when national statistics show 1,873 deaths from the virus.

{Pro-coronavirus protesters outside the CDC headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia on March 13, 2021, when national statistics show 1,873 deaths from the virus.
Photo: Elijah Nouvelage (Getty Images)

The various dingbats and wingnuts of the pro-Donald Trump web have been keeping busy by spreading detailed instructions on how to create fake official Centers for Disease Control and Prevention coronavirus vaccination cards rather than just get the damn shot. Doing so, the FBI says, is a federal crime that can be punished by up to half a decade in prison.

According to NBC News, templates and detailed instructions have spread like wildfire on right-wing forums like 4chan and, as well as anti-vaccination boards, a task made easier by the decision of certain state governments to leave high-resolution PDF versions of the cards available on their website. The fakers might be relatively small compared to the 140 million or so Americans who have gotten legitimate CDC vaccination cards, which certify the dates the holder received their shot(s), the type of vaccine administered, and where. Some of the posts also described the correct resolution and type of stick-on labels used by some vaccination centers to mark dates on the cards.

The coronavirus vaccines authorized for emergency use are known to be safe and effective. Refusal to receive one of them without a very rare medical exemption such as going into anaphylactic shock following a prior vaccination is politely referred to by health authorities as vaccine hesitancy. Polling has shown that the number of Americans who say they will not get vaccinated against covid-19 has been dropping, but a recent CBS News poll found that 18 percent still gave a “maybe” answer and 22 percent just said no.

Hesitancy is particularly high among Republicans and in particular Republican men, which could be due to a number of factors but is most easily tied directly to their wannabe god-emperor’s consistent downplaying of the seriousness of the pandemic and repeated endorsements of quack science. Various conspiracy theories have included everything from claims the vaccines contain a minuscule tracking device made by Microsoft CEO Bill Gates to baseless assertions that it is harmful, unnecessary, or a political machination by Democrats. Some evangelical Christians have rejected the vaccine for asinine reasons like the vaccine being a false idol, fabricated claims it contains aborted fetal tissue, or simply trusting their health to God and God alone. Other hesitant right-wingers don’t even have a pretext beyond just being assholes who resent the idea of having to do something for the common good.

It’s not really clear how many people are actually planning to buy or create fake CDC cards. But last year, enough jerks made fraudulent cards claiming medical exemptions to mask-wearing mandates emblazoned with the Department of Justice seal that the DOJ warned the fake documents constituted a federal crime.

G/O Media may get a commission

NBC reported at least seven universities (American University, Bowdoin College, the University of Colorado Boulder, Fairleigh Dickinson University, Fort Lewis College, Rutgers University, and Wesleyan University) will be relying on the cards to vet students for return to campus. Big companies like Salesforce and United Airlines have also announced that they will use the CDC cards when bringing employees back into offices. They will find it difficult to impossible to verify whether the cards are legitimate, as there’s no publicly accessible paper trail and the speed of the rollout has meant no one built any kind of electronic vetting system for ID cards and driver’s licenses.

“Paper is always going to be less of a risk for unintended compromise of anything digital,” Eva Velasquez, the president of the Identity Theft Resource Center, told NBC. “If [the CDC card] is just a short-term solution for how we temporarily navigate the world and get back to resuming our normal, then it is probably adequate. But there’s a lot of unknowns. We don’t know how long this is going to last.”

According to NBC News, public health officials in Missouri and Wisconsin confirmed that the CDC had advised them to remove publicly accessible card templates from their websites, though by that point the templates had been downloaded countless times and remain accessible on archival services.

“Initially, it was included on our vaccinators’ resources web page because there were times when providers would not receive enough cards with the vaccines, especially when additional doses were being drawn before larger ancillary kits were made available,” a spokesperson for the Missouri Health Department said.

Trump supporters and anti-vaxx losers eager to continue collaborating with the virus by simply getting a fake mark of the beast should be aware they could be prosecuted.

In late March, the FBI issued a warning informing the public that ordering and creating fake CDC cards or filling in real ones with fake information not only puts the public at risk, “is a crime, and may be punishable under Title 18 United States Code, Section 1017, and other applicable laws.” The referenced law concerns fraudulent or wrongful use of a federal government seal on any “certificate, instrument, commission, document, or paper” and establishes possible punishments of a fine and up to five years in prison.

Anyone presenting a bogus CDC vaccination card to their employer or another institution is also obviously putting themselves at high risk of being fired, kicked out of school, or whatever, especially given the virus itself isn’t dissuaded by fake IDs and coming down sick with it after the card check might be a big red flag. This all seems a lot more inconvenient than showing up for one to two jabs, but you do your horrible you.