As a Delaware resident is being prosecuted federally for allegedly forging and selling fake COVID-19 vaccination cards, lawmakers are aiming to criminalize such action at the state level, as well.
Filed on Thursday, House Bill 302 would make the production and selling of fake vaccination cards a second-degree felony. The definition of such cards would be added to the forgery offense in the Delaware Code.
According to a news release issued by the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Paul Baumbach, D-Newark, a vaccination card would be one “provided to an individual by a vaccine provider indicating the date an individual received a vaccination, the type of vaccine and lot number, and bearing a government logo or other indication that the card is created by a governmental instrumentality.”
The proposed legislation comes as “more and more, we have seen cases of individuals forging vaccination cards to circumvent guidelines or requirements to get vaccinated,” Rep. Baumbach said.
“This isn’t just dishonest; it’s also a public health risk that could put susceptible people in jeopardy by being around someone claiming to be vaccinated against a serious virus. By adding this definition to the forgery statute, we will be giving prosecutors another tool to combat this growing crime.”
The charged defendant — identified in court documents as a paramedic — is facing the potential of a six-month prison stay and a $5,000 fine, among other penalties. A court date for the misdemeanor offense is set for February, and an initial appearance, plea and sentence will take place on the same day.
According to federal charging documents, the accused worked at a site in Kent County where vaccinations were administered.
“On or about Feb. 22 (the defendant) devised a plan to obtain COVID-19 vaccination cards for the purpose of selling the cards to individuals who did not receive the vaccination,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
Prosecutors alleged that once the defendant “gained access to a vaccination administration site (the defendant) took blank vaccination cards from the site he worked at as a paramedic and used them to create fraudulent proof of vaccination cards for various individuals who, in fact, had not been vaccinated.”
Ultimately, according to USAO, the defendant generated about $1,300 for delivering the cards to buyers. Spokeswoman Kim Reeves said she had no comment on whether cases are being pursued against anyone who purchased cards.
She said there have been no other Delaware-related cases involving false vaccination cards but noted that the office does not confirm or discuss any potential or ongoing investigations.
According to legislators, similar incidents have been reported nationwide.
“Public health should be a paramount concern for all Delawareans,” said prime Senate sponsor Sen. Kyle Evans Gay, D-Talleyville. “Anyone who would endanger the welfare of others by misrepresenting their vaccination status or helping someone else to misrepresent their vaccination status should be held accountable under the laws of our state.”
Under HB 302, the crime would include electronic vaccination documents because the existing definition of “written instrument” under state code includes electronic equivalents, the news release said.
The bill has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee.