Hochul makes fabrication of COVID vaccination cards a state crime: EXCLUSIVE

Originally published in New York Daily News

Producing or using a fake coronavirus vaccination card has become a state crime in New York thanks to a bill signed into law by Gov. Hochul late Wednesday.

The bill, which was inked along with a package of other pandemic response-related measures, makes the falsification of a coronavirus vaccination card a class A misdemeanor. It also establishes a new felony computer-tampering charge for intentional alteration of material pertaining to COVID-19 vaccine records.

“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 after signing the bills. “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.”

Fabricating vaccination information was already a federal crime, but Hochul’s move adds another option for prosecuting users and purveyors of bogus immunization cards.

A number of city employees have recently been accused of using fake cards to get around Mayor de Blasio’s municipal vaccination mandate, including two high-ranking NYPD cops who were stripped of their shields and guns over the matter earlier this month.

State Sen. Anna Kaplan (D-Long Island), a sponsor of the bill, said New York’s recent spike in COVID-19 infections makes the ability to prosecute vaccine card fraud especially important. “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.

The three other pieces of legislation signed by Hochul late Wednesday expand schools’ access to the state’s vaccination database and direct relevant agencies to conduct studies on how the pandemic has impacted medical care and financial services in New York.