Fake vaccine cards now illegal in New York state

Originally published in Albany Times Union

ALBANY — It’s now against the law in New York state to use a fake vaccination card, according to a new bill signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul late Wednesday.

The new law makes the falsification of COVID-19 vaccination cards a class A misdemeanor. It also creates a new E felony of third-degree computer tampering for “intentional entering, alteration or destruction of computer material regarding COVID-19 vaccine provisions.”

Hochul signed the legislation at a time when cases are surging statewide and New York has left it to counties to either check vaccination status or require masks as part of a statewide mandate. 

"We need to make sure we learn the lessons of the pandemic so we don't make the same mistakes twice," Hochul said in a statement. "These new laws will help us improve our response to the pandemic now, crack down on fraudulent use of vaccination records and help us better understand the areas of improvement we need to make to our health care system so we can be even more prepared down the road."

Fraudulent vaccination cards are also a violation of federal law, and the FBI in March released a public service announcement reminding the public that it’s a crime to "replicate the unauthorized use of an official government agency’s seal, specifically the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention seals," reported USA Today.

Bill co-sponsor Sen. Anna M. Kaplan, D-North Hills, said the law is critical as “countless employers, schools, small businesses and communities” are relying on genuine proof of vaccination status as a tool to keep their spaces safe from COVID transmission.

“It's never been more urgent that we protect this process from fraud so that the health and safety of the public isn't compromised by bad actors using fraudulent vaccination cards or passports,” Kaplan said in a statement. 

Hochul signed several additional pandemic-related bills late Wednesday, including improving schools’ access to the statewide immunization database and ordering the state Department of Health to study how the pandemic has affected medical care.

The state Department of Financial Services has also been directed to study how the pandemic has impacted “underbanked and underserved areas, small businesses and minority- and women-owned business enterprises getting loans.”

“Minority and low-income areas were hit especially hard by the pandemic, so this legislation will provide state government officials on how banking was affected in these communities and what solutions there are to create more accessible banking,” according to a news release from the governor’s office.