We Suspect Our Employees Provided Us Fake Vaccination Cards

Question:

Our senior leadership team couldn’t believe the hostility that erupted when we told our employees if they weren’t vaccinated by September 15, we’d consider they had voluntarily resigned. Several of them emailed lengthy rants to every member of the management team. Others came into our offices crying and went home in tears.

Then, like magic, the protests stopped. We thought it might have to do with the FDA approving Pfizer, or someone talking sense to the eleven employees who hadn’t wanted to get vaccinated.

We breathed a sigh of relief. A few days ago, our office manager got suspicious. She looked up phony vaccination cards. Is this really a thing? If so, this torques us. What can we do about it? Is it best to let this go and consider their actions a stalemate?

Answer:

Fake card reality

According to a September 1st news article, a woman calling herself AntiVaxMomma began selling fake vaccination cards in May1. She sold them via Instagram for $200 each. According to the Associated Press, other online accounts sold sham cards for prices ranging from $25 to $200.2 Federal agents seized more than 3,000 fake vaccination cards printed with the Centers for Disease Control Prevention logo and shipped from Shenzhen, China.2

What those buying these black-market cards don’t realize is buying a counterfeit card can land them in prison for up to five years because violates federal law (Title 18 United States Code, Section 1017) against the unauthorized use of an office government agency’s seal.2 The Manhattan District Attorney filed charges for Conspiracy in the Fifth Degree and Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree against thirteen employees who purchased AntiVaxMomma’s cards.3

What employers can do

You can assess if your employees’ vaccine cards are legitimate or false. Ask to inspect the actual cards. The cards should be thicker than thin paper and include some handwriting. Given how the vaccination rollouts occurred, with the Moderna and Pfizer shots being given weeks apart, it’s unlikely that the same provider administered both doses. The handwriting on each dose should be different, unless a pharmacy or a clinic administered the doses. If this is the case, you can request that your employees furnish further proof.

If you suspect fake vaccination cards, you can file a report with the Federal Trade Commission at ReportFraud.ftc.gov, file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center or report your suspicion to the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services at oig.hhs.gov or 800-HHS-TIPS.4

You can also call “stalemate” and let the situation go. If you take this route, remember that few secrets exist for long in the workplace. One of your other employees, uncomfortable with unvaccinated coworkers, may report the situation.

What you could have done ahead of time

As a country, we’re divided over vaccines. According to recent research, 44% of employees state they would consider leaving jobs if their employer initiated a vaccine mandate. Another 38% of employees would consider leaving their jobs if their employer doesn’t enact a vaccine mandate.5

When an employer called me and asked what to do, explaining they want to mandate vaccinations and feared an employee backlash, I asked them to select two employees, one who clearly opposed the vaccine mandate and another unvaccinated employee who’d rather not get vaccinated, and have both call me.

Here’s what I learned. The employee who opposed the mandate cited many research studies that I looked upon the Internet when on the phone with her. Some seemed legitimate. Others provided disinformation I knew to be false. Many weren’t research, but opinion pieces. She said “none of the unvaccinated employees” would stay if the employer imposed a mandate. I asked “none?” and she responded, “NONE” and said, “we won’t resign, we’ll force them to fire us, and we’ll sue.”

The other employee said he and others felt uncertain. He also said both vaccinated and unvaccinated employees felt intimidated by anti-vax employees and afraid to challenge anti-vaxxers who often spoke up breakroom and company meetings.

I suggested the employer confidentially survey their employees and learn all employees’ views toward a vaccine mandate and then publish the results. I said the survey results might surprise the anti-vax employees.

I suggested they then outline to all employees the benefits they feel a vaccine mandate may bring and ask for and consider the employees’ input. While this employer may ultimately face employee resistance, giving all employees two opportunities to provide their views ahead of the decision removes some of the “top-down” feeling.

1 https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2021/09/01/1033337445/fake-vaccination-cards-were-sold-to-health-care-workers-on-instagram

2 https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2021/08/16/border-patrol-fake-vaccine-cards/

3 D.A. Vance Announces Takedown of Fake COVID-19 Vaccination Card Conspiracy – Manhattan District Attorney’s Office (manhattanda.org)

4 https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2021/08/dont-buy-fake-covid-19-vaccine-cards-or-negative-test-results-heres-why

5 https://www.forbes.com/sites/jackkelly/2021/08/12/study-shows-that-44-of-employees-would-quit-if-ordered-to-get-vaccinated/?sh=145f85481b78

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6 thoughts on “We Suspect Our Employees Provided Us Fake Vaccination Cards

  1. I loved this article and discussion, and thought your proposal was pretty good.

    But it wasn’t conclusive – it didn’t give the employer an ultimate position other than ‘if they don’t like it (either way I decide) then… The ‘ultimatum’ that the employees are still confronted with is: one side will lose and potentially quit.

    If the employer follows your excellent suggestion to discretely interview them all and publish a result – of course the feelings of most will be ‘out there’ as many, if not most will know by the past who said what – at least the attitudes will be out in the open.

    But, I’m a vaxxer, and extremely against being forced to be in the company of anti-vaxxers to the degree that I believe even ‘medically or for-cause exempt’ people should be excluded/isolated from any situation where they could infect others. Sorry, it stands to reason that if one person farts in church, the whole church is undeniably and unavoidably force-exposed to it.

    And that, to me, is just about the same as standing a group of people up in front of a firing squad and putting a few in protective gear while telling all that the hail of bullets won’t affect them. You just can’t ‘duck the facts’ and expect to survive forced incidental exposure from unthinking, uncaring or selectively unprotected people.

    At the very least, the potential for huge costs and repercussions come with ANY exposure or, differently stated, with any unavoidable exposure situation. Any elective or selectively non-vaxxers should be proactively prepared to cover at least the anticipated expenses of their decision – put their money where their attitude is. Their insurance coverage should be reset to exclude treatment for care for related maladies. It should be illegal (I believe it is, actually) to intentionally expose innocent victims to life-threatening situations. The medically- and otherwise-‘exempt’ people just happen to be outliers in this situation. True, it’s not necessarily their fault, and in some cases not their ‘choice’ (though ‘freedom of religion’ and doing whatever they want about that IS a choice) – but it is their situation.

    1. Dan, you make powerful points. I personally hope everyone gets vaccinated. Meanwhile, one person dear to me and two others that I like a lot are insisting on not getting vaccinated; one has had COVID. So I mask and distance and write, because I want employers to realize they have rights. .

  2. Hi Lynn. I received both my vaccines at the Fred Meyer’s in Palmer. I wrote my own name and DOB on the top of the card, but the dose information for both doses was printed on a sticker that was then applied to the card. There are no signatures or handwriting on the dose stickers. Your comment above make it sound like my card would be a fake card and that is not true. I am proud to be vaccinated and am looking forward to getting a booster. I even laminated my card to preserve the original stickers. You might want to correct your comment after calling the Fred Meyer pharmacy in Palmer to confirm what I have just said. Maybe a clarification in your next column would help people like me who have a legitimate vaccination card. Thanks for all the good information you share in your columns.

    1. Gail, thank you. Your comment makes sense and I’ll put a clarifying note @ the bottom of my next Anchorage Daily News column and I’ll adjust this blog column. Lynne

  3. I am pro-vaccine in ideology, but because I had a serious reaction to a 2015 flu shot and have been told by four different medical professionals at 4 different clinics to never get another flu shot and that it’s not safe for me to get a COVID shot, I haven’t been vaccinated. From my perspective, it’s the pro-vaxx crowd that is most vocal and militant about it, and I have a very real fear that ultimately I may find myself unemployed because despite what I’ve previously been told I’m not sure these same providers would be willing to put something in writing to give me an exemption because there’s enormous pressure right now on everyone to go pro-vaccine. Additionally, I have one friend who got a medical exemption, and her employer is refusing to honor it anyway.

    On top of which, the newest data out of Israel (one of the most vaccinated countries on earth) showed that in July between 77% and 94% (it depended on the age group) of people diagnosed with COVID were fully vaccinated. The newer variants don’t seem to be slowed down much by the vaccines. This isn’t strictly a “pandemic of the unvaccinated.” I don’t this pandemic is going to be stopped by vaccination alone. And I think that natural immunity should be counted because the studies are showing that natural immunity in people that have already had COVID is lasting longer than immunity from the vaccines and has a more robust response to new exposures. And yet, so far, I’m not seeing anyone counting natural immunity as being worth anything. And that’s really frustrating.

    1. Dee, you raise really important issues. I think every employer needs to assess on a case by case basis, and that the employer would likely, given the facts you’ve presented, allow you an exemption.

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