Why Fake COVID-19 Vaccination Cards Are an Issue for Colleges

people in classroom wearing masks

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Key Takeaways

  • Fake COVID-19 vaccination cards are being sold to college students who don’t want to get vaccinated.
  • Because these students are not truly getting vaccinated, experts warn that there could be outbreaks of the virus.
  • Using a fake COVID-19 ID card could even result in the student’s expulsion from college.

As part of the collective effort to get back to “normal” life, a large number of U.S. colleges are requiring that students get fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Students must show proof of their COVID-19 vaccination via their official vaccine card, which includes the logo of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, there are still many people who do not want to get their shots. Enter: fake COVID-19 vaccination cards.

The rise in fake vaccine card sales could result in some serious consequences. Experts warn that unvaccinated students who present fake vaccine cards might cause a COVID-19 outbreak to occur on campus. It could even put their entire educational future at risk.

Young Adults Are Hesitant to Get Vaccinated

According to a report in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report in June, vaccination rates are low in the 18–39 year age group. A study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that almost a quarter of people ages 18–25 were holding off getting vaccinated.

Carol Winner, MPH

College is like high school on steroids with larger classrooms, dining halls, sporting events, and shared housing—all of which offer greater potential for infection.

— Carol Winner, MPH

For college students, the repercussions of not getting vaccinated vary by institution. At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, students can voluntarily share their vaccine status with the administration, but if they choose not to, or show up on campus unvaccinated, they’ll need to get weekly COVID-19 tests. 

Hundreds of other colleges have similar requirements, such as Duke University, whose website states that unvaccinated individuals must continue to wear masks and take part in regular testing until further notice. Some schools, like Vanderbilt University, won’t admit unvaccinated students. “We will require all new and returning students to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 for the 2021–22 academic year,” states their website. 

Why the COVID-19 Vaccine Is Necessary for a Safe Year at College

The threat of fake vaccination cards will become clearer when students go back to school this fall. Right now, nobody knows exactly how many of them are being sold. In the meantime, health officials are encouraging young adults to get vaccinated.

“The vaccines are safe for all age groups and most protective in the younger age groups where they work hand-in-hand with a robust immune system (in most cases),” says Charles Bailey, MD, medical director for infection prevention at Providence Mission Hospital and Providence St. Joseph Hospital in Orange County, California. “Being vaccinated is the best way to have the enjoyable and academically rewarding year they are looking forward to.”

If students want to be able to complete their courses without interruption by preventable illness, as well as participate in whatever social activities are available to them, getting fully vaccinated is the best-proven route to achieve those goals, adds Dr. Bailey. 

Charles Bailey, MD

The vaccines are safe for all age groups and most protective in the younger age groups where they work hand-in-hand with a robust immune system in most cases.

— Charles Bailey, MD

Carol Winner, MPH, public health expert and founder of social distancing brand Give Space, agrees. “College is like high school on steroids with larger classrooms, dining halls, sporting events, and shared housing—all of which offer greater potential for infection,” she says.

Winner believes that students who use fake vaccine IDs will dangerously compromise the health and safety of everyone. “It may also lead to campus-wide quarantine or even closings, due to outbreaks. College life brings freedom of choice. If you are a student and are not protected by the vaccine, the virus will choose for you,” she warns.

If you do not get vaccinated, it’s crucial that you follow all official safety precautions. The CDC recommends wearing a face mask in indoor public places. Some college campuses are still requiring that students wear face masks in doors, especially in light of the delta variant. And even if you’ve been vaccinated, you should be scrupulous about hand-washing to avoid transmitting germs.

Authorities Are Cracking Down on Fake COVID-19 IDs

Health risks aside, using fake ID cards could land you in trouble with the law. In March, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) issued a public service announcement warning the public that selling fake vaccination cards with a government logo on them is a crime.

In California, a bar owner was arrested for selling undercover agents fake COVID-19 vaccine cards and is now facing multiple criminal charges. According to the state’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, agents purchased the fraudulent cards multiple times in April at the Old Corner Saloon in San Joaquin County, about 35 miles southeast of Sacramento.

While it might be possible to get away with a fake ID card at college initially, it’s easy for school administrations to verify the authenticity of the document with their county health departments. And it could jeopardize a student’s entire future.

USA Today reports that Albertus Magnus College, a Catholic private liberal arts college in Connecticut, would consider presenting a fake vaccine card a form of falsification and a violation of the college’s student code of conduct. The college’s website warns, “Failure to comply with the Code of Conduct may result in administrative withdrawal from the College.”

What This Means For You

Getting vaccinated before going back to college won’t just help protect you (and the most vulnerable members of your community, both on and off campus) from serious illness from COVID-19. It’ll also make life a lot less stressful because you won’t have to participate in regular testing on top of all your other commitments, like midterms and presentations.

Remember, scientists have proven the COVID-19 vaccine to be effective and safe. The more people who get vaccinated, the sooner college life will return to “normal.”

8 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Baack BN, Abad N, Yankey D, et al. COVID-19 vaccination coverage and intent among adults aged 18–39 years — United States, March–May 2021. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2021;70(25):928-933. doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm7025e2

  2. Adams SH, Schaub JP, Nagata JM, Park MJ, Brindis CD, Irwin CE. Young adult perspectives on COVID-19 vaccinations. J Adolesc Health. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2021.06.003

  3. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. COVID-19 community standards.

  4. Duke University. COVID vaccine.

  5. Vanderbilt University. Undergraduate student vaccination requirement.

  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. COVID-19: how to protect yourself & others.

  7. Federal Bureau of Investigation. If you make or buy a fake COVID-19 vaccination record card, you endanger yourself and those around you, and you are breaking the law.

  8. California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. ABC makes arrest in fraudulent COVID-19 vaccination card case.

By Claire Gillespie
Claire Gillespie is a freelance writer specializing in mental health. She’s written for The Washington Post, Vice, Health, Women’s Health, SELF, The Huffington Post, and many more. Claire is passionate about raising awareness for mental health issues and helping people experiencing them not feel so alone.