Verifying the Vax

Is doing the most to identify fake vaccine cards realistic?

Fake COVID 19 vaccination card on desk with laminator, ruler and other supplies for forging documents
"F" stands for "forgery," "fake," and "Fuck, isn't this over yet?"/ Copyright: anyaivanova

New York City will soon require proof of COVID vaccination for citizens to enter restaurants, gyms, and other indoor venues. All Denver city employees (and many other public workers) are mandated to be fully vaccinated by the end of September. And Delta variant cases are going up, up, up.

While—so far—there are no public health mandates regarding masking, vaccination, or capacity restrictions for Colorado restaurants, a handful of spots in Denver and Boulder have announced they will be requiring customers to show proof of vaccination. (Cafe Aion and Bar Max require proof of the jab if diners want to sit indoors, with To the Wind dedicating Wednesday night’s service to the vaxxed. And Bonanno Concepts, which includes Denver Milk Market, Mizuna, and Vesper Lounge, will be requiring both staff and patrons to be fully immunized starting September 30, though the spots will be relying on the honor system by having diners complete a health declaration.)

With the increase in vaccination requirements comes the (presumed) rise in forgery of CDC vaccination cards. Companies like Immunaband, which sell bracelets bearing a QR code that allows the wearer to access proof of vaccination with a secure PIN, are popping up in an effort to make the verification process seamless and secure.

Dr. Tashof Bernton, a Denver-area physician and developer of Immunaband, predicts a spike in the number of fake vax cards. He points to a few factors that can tell you whether the document your guest handed over (or snapped a pic of) is legit:

  • Ensure the card has the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) logos on it and that they are correct.
  • A fully printed card is a huge red flag. Most cards Bernton has seen are handwritten (usually with two different people’s handwriting); some have a printed sticker.
  • If you have doubts, call the facility that issued the card to verify its legitimacy.

But after 18 months of enforcing mask wearing and social distancing, requesting staff not only enforce a vaccination policy but also take a microscope to customers’ documentation is big, big, big ask. Cafe Aion’s Dakota Soifer agrees: “No real concern (or extra funds or bandwidth) to deal with fake vaccination cards. I don’t expect folks to be scamming a place, whose policy they disagree with, so they can get inside and spend their money with us to be a problem.”

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