Border agents have seized thousands of counterfeit CDC vaccination cards from China headed to New Orleans

Customs and Border Protection officers in Memphis intercept phony shipments ‘every night,’ agency says

Alex Woodward
New York
Friday 13 August 2021 22:37
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Over the last several weeks, US border agents in Memphis have seized more than 3,000 fraudulent Covid-19 vaccination cards, mocked up to look like cards provided by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, shipped from China and headed to New Orleans.

US Customs and Border Protection officers have intercepted counterfeit shipments “every night”, the agency announced on 13 August.

On 10 August, officers seized more than a dozen shipments headed to other states, including Alabama, New York, New Jersey, South Carolina and Tennessee, according to the agency. The seizures come as more cities require vaccinations for a range of indoor activities, including restaurants, cinemas and gyms.

The agency reports that suspicious packages include “low quality” index cards that include blank spaces for a vaccine “recipient’s name and birthdate, the vaccine maker, lot number, and date and place the shot was given” – just as the CDC cards include.

But counterfeit cards include “typos, unfinished words, and some of the Spanish verbiage on the back was misspelled,” the agency announced.

“Though they may come in packs of 20, 51, 100, there are never any attempts to conceal them in anything,” according to the agency. “They aren’t hidden in books, nor are they stuffed in the back of framed paintings.”

A market for phony vaccination cards has followed a rise in vaccine requirements among businesses, institutions and elsewhere, for both customers and employers, to curb the spread of the disease and accelerating hospitalisations amid a surge in infections driven by the more-contagious Delta variant and relaxed pandemic precautions.

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell, among other mayors and officials across the US implementing similar requirements, has mandated that people visiting restaurants, bars, gyms and other indoor venues must show proof of their vaccination or a recent negative test. The rule is effective from Monday.

“These vaccinations are free and available everywhere,” CBP’s Memphis port director Michael Neipert said in a statement.

“If you do not wish to receive a vaccine, that is your decision,” he said. “But don’t order a counterfeit, waste my [officers] time, break the law, and misrepresent yourself.”

Buying, selling or using counterfeit Covid-19 vaccination cards can be considered unauthorized use of an official government agency seal and could include penalties of up to five years in prison.

More than 167 million Americans, or roughly half of the US population, are fully vaccinated from Covid-19, according to the CDC. That includes more than 61 per cent of adults and more than 80 per cent of people over age 65.

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