KEY POINTS

  • Searches for fake COVID-19 vaccination cards surged in the last week
  • The spike comes after the CDC announced new coronavirus guidelines
  • As per new guidelines, fully vaccinated Americans are not required to wear masks

Google data indicates that searches for fake COVID-19 vaccination cards spiked across the United States after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) eased coronavirus restrictions for fully vaccinated people. 

The CDC reversed its mask guidance for fully vaccinated Americans last week. As per the new guidelines, vaccinated people are no longer required to wear face coverings indoors or outdoors in most settings. 

Following the May 13 announcement by the CDC, Google searches for “fake covid card” surged by 950% and “fake covid vaccine card” rose by 1,150% compared to the previous 90 day time period. The term “buy covid vaccine card” also soared in three states, including Pennsylvania, New York, and Texas, data showed.

The government is currently giving paper cards to Americans who receive COVID-19 vaccines. An official template of the vaccination card has been posted across multiple online platforms, including official government sites. This prompted pro-Trump web forums and anti-vaccination forums to release tips on creating fake cards.

On 4chan, an extremist forum, users were given a link to a vaccine card template from Wyoming’s Department of Health. The specifications of the card, such as the thickness of cardstock, stick-on labels, and resolution for the printed labels, were also posted in the forum, according to NBC News

Several gun and QAnon forums stated instructions to forge COVID-19 vaccine cards, reminding users to “write the date in a blue ballpoint pen, and not to be too neat with their handwriting.”

Fake vaccination cards are also being sold on Etsy, eBay, Facebook, and Twitter for $20 to $60 each. Buying a bundle of three or more would come with a discount. Laminated cards cost extra.

“We found hundreds of online stores selling the cards, potentially thousands were sold,” Saoud Khalifah, the founder of Fakespot, which offers tools to detect fake listings and reviews online, told The New York Times

Earlier this week, police officers on Long Island, New York, arrested a CVS employee who was in possession of 62 fake vaccine cards. 

In order to prevent the circulation of fake cards, the CDC recently delivered guidance to states to pull the templates from their sites, citing “misuse” by the anti-vaccine community, state officials said.

Following the CDC's announcement that inoculated Americans can ditch masks in most settings, the agency's Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky had said: “We have all longed for this moment — when we can get back to some sense of normalcy... Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities – large or small — without wearing a mask or physically distancing. If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic.”

The CDC data documented the 10 cases of anaphylactic shock among a reported 4,041,396 first doses of the Moderna vaccine The Moderna COVID vaccine is pictured. Photo: AFP / Ronny Hartmann