Senator Anna M. Kaplan Urges NYS Health Department to Remove Fake COVID Vaccination Data from State Database, Revoke Fraudulent Excelsior Passes, & Take Further Steps to Prevent Vaxx Record Fraud

In a letter sent to State Health Department Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett, Senator Kaplan inquires about existing procedures to protect the State's immunization database from fraud, and urges further action to protect public health.

The inquiry follows recent reporting of a shocking $1.5 million fraud operation alleged on Long Island that potentially resulted in thousands of false entries being entered into the State database.

CARLE PLACE, NY (January 29, 2022) - Today, New York State Senator Anna M. Kaplan (D-North Hills) sent a letter to New York State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett (click here to see the letter) inquiring about existing procedures to protect the State's immunization database from fraud, and urging further action to protect public health. The inquiry follows recent reporting of a shocking $1.5 million fraud operation alleged on Long Island that potentially resulted in thousands of false entries being entered into the State database.

Senator Anna M. Kaplan said "The reports out of Amityville this week are absolutely shocking, that two licensed medical professionals were running what amounts to a "vaxx card mill" out of their medical office, and allegedly profiting over a million dollars by defrauding our community and putting public health at risk. Ensuring the validity of records proving vaccination status is vital to protecting New York families from preventable illness and avoiding an unnecessary protraction of the pandemic. We must do everything we can to combat this fraud on our community, and today, I'm urging the State Department of Health to do more."

Yesterday, two healthcare workers on Long Island were arrested for allegedly forging COVID-19 vaccination cards at a cost of $220 per adult and $85 per child, and inputting fraudulent information into the New York State Immunization Information System ("NYSIIS") to falsely list the individuals as vaccinated in the Statewide database. The operation was allegedly run out of Wild Child Pediatric Healthcare in Amityville, NY, and according to ledgers and cash seized during a searches of the facility and private homes by police, the individuals profited $1.5 million from the scheme over the last three months. By inputting patient vaccination data into the NYSIIS, purchasers of fake vaccination cards would be able to fraudulently obtain an Excelsior Pass without ever being vaccinated against COVID-19, undermining the State's efforts, and efforts by businesses and individuals, to slow the spread of COVID-19, and protect public health and safety.

Late last year, Governor Kathy Hochul signed legislation authored by Senator Kaplan, the "Truth in Vaccination" law, which explicitly makes falsification of COVID-19 vaccination records a crime, ensuring that legal penalties exist for those found to be creating or utilizing fraudulent COVID-19 vaccination cards or digital passports. An upstate New York couple made headlines this week as the first to be charged in Erie County under the new law for using fake vaccination cards to attend the recent Bills-Patriots football game at Highmark Stadium.

The letter Senator Kaplan sent today is seeking to ensure that fraudulent data is being removed from government databases in instances where it has been determined that no actual vaccination was given. The letter also seeks more information about the State's efforts to proactively combat the problem of fraudulent vaccination records, and the capabilities of the Excelsior Pass system to revoke passes issued to those engaging in this unlawful conduct.

Senator Anna M. Kaplan continued "if the State is not currently taking actions to remove fraudulent data, proactively combating the problem of “vaxx card mills,” and revoking Excelsior Passes from those engaging in this unlawful conduct, I am urging immediate action be taken by the Department of Health to address these issues in order to protect public health and safety."

The full text of the letter reads: "Dear Commissioner Bassett:

I am reaching out following reports of incidents across the State involving the use and sale of fraudulent COVID vaccination records, including a shocking case on Long Island where two licensed medical professionals are accused of running a staggering $1.5 million fraud operation that may have resulted in thousands of fake records being entered into the New York State Immunization Information System (NYSIIS) and the New York City Citywide Immunization Registry (NYC CIR).

This particular incident, and the extremely disturbing conduct alleged, raises several serious concerns that need to be addressed in order to protect the health and safety of the public, and I would appreciate your responses to the following questions:

  • Is there already a process in place at the Department of Health, in conjunction with law enforcement agencies investigating and prosecuting these cases, to ensure that fraudulent data is being removed from government databases in instances where it has been determined that no actual vaccination was given?
  • Is the Department of Health utilizing any pro-active strategies or tools to flag potentially fraudulent activity in government databases, for example, where certain providers are logging statistically higher rates of vaccination? In the recent Long Island case, a very small pediatric healthcare facility had potentially logged thousands of entries into the system within a very short period of time, which could potentially have served as a red flag for fraud.
  • Is the State’s Excelsior Pass system capable of revoking passes that have been issued based on false records inputted into government databases?

If the State is not currently taking actions to remove fraudulent data, proactively combating the problem of “vaxx card mills,” and revoking Excelsior Passes from those engaging in this unlawful conduct, I am urging immediate action be taken by the Department of Health to address these issues in order to protect public health and safety. I would also note that this may not only be a problem impacting COVID vaccination records, but potentially regular childhood vaccination records as well, and any strategy that protects COVID vaccination records from fraud should be applied similarly to cases of childhood vaccinations.

Defending the validity of records proving vaccination status is vital to protecting New York families from preventable illness and avoiding an unnecessary protraction of the pandemic. We must do everything we can to combat this fraud on our community, and I appreciate your assistance in doing so.

Sincerely,

Anna M. Kaplan, New York State Senator, 7th Senate District"

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