U.S. Customs and Border Protection have intercepted bundles of counterfeit coronavirus vaccine cards that were shipped from Shenzhen, China, to recipients all over the United States, the agency said Friday.
CBP officials said in a statement that thousands of fake vaccine cards were seized at the port of Memphis, a major shipping hub. The cards were printed with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention logo and had blank spaces for the recipient's name and birthdate, the vaccine maker, lot number, and date and place the shot was given.
The cards were identified as fakes by numerous typos, unfinished words, and misspelled Spanish verbiage on the back. Additionally, they were imported by a non-CDC or medical entity, which tipped customs agents off.
Several state and local governments and private businesses have sought to impose vaccine mandates as the number of COVID-19 cases has risen nationwide this summer. Some public places like bars, schools, and other settings where large numbers of people may gather are being told to require patrons to show proof of vaccination to gain entry. Fake vaccine cards are a means by which people who do not wish to take a COVID-19 vaccine are attempting to circumvent the restrictions.
An Associated Press report found that fake vaccine cards were available for purchase online from $25 to as much as $200. The falsified vaccination documents have become popular on college campuses, as at least 675 colleges and universities now require proof of COVID-19 vaccinations.
In March, the FBI issued a warning that counterfeiting vaccine cards or purchasing fake cards is a violation of federal laws against the unauthorized use of an official government agency's seal, punishable by up to five years in prison.
"If you did not receive the vaccine, do not buy fake vaccine cards, do not make your own vaccine cards, and do not fill-in blank vaccination record cards with false information," the FBI said.
CBP said agents confiscated 121 packages containing more than 3,000 fake vaccine cards.
"These vaccinations are free and available everywhere," Michael Neipert, area port director of Memphis, said. "If you do not wish to receive a vaccine, that is your decision. But don't order a counterfeit, waste my officer's time, break the law, and misrepresent yourself. CBP Officers at the Area Port of Memphis remain committed to stopping counterfeit smuggling and helping to protect our communities. But just know that when you order a fake vaxx card, you are using my officers time as they also seize fentanyl and methamphetamines."