U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has seized thousands of falsified COVID-19 vaccine cards from China in Memphis, Tenn.
Border Patrol agents have had 121 seizures of fake vaccination cards so far this fiscal year, amounting to 3,017 falsified cards confiscated, according to a statement from the agency on released Friday.
One of the shipments described in the statement was a package from Shenzhen, China, going to New Orleans labeled “PAPER CARD, PAPER.” The shipment contained 51 falsified vaccination cards.
Officers already knew the shipment would contain false documents, according to the statement. The shipments with fake vaccination cards are “always from China” and are commonly labeled “Paper Greeting Cards/Use For-Greeting Card” and “PAPER PAPER CARD.”
The fake cards have the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention logo along with blank lines to fill in information such as the recipient's name and the dates the shots were given. The cards normally come in packs of 20, 50 or 100.
However, the statement says there are multiple ways to tell these cards are fake. For example, the cards contain typos and misspelled Spanish verbiage on the back, and they are not imported from a medical facility.
“These vaccinations are free and available everywhere,” Area Port Director of Memphis Michael Neipert said.
“If you do not wish to receive a vaccine, that is your decision. But don’t order a counterfeit, waste my officer’s time, break the law, and misrepresent yourself. CBP Officers at the Area Port of Memphis remain committed to stopping counterfeit smuggling and helping to protect our communities. But just know that when you order a fake vaxx card, you are using my officers time as they also seize fentanyl and methamphetamines,” Neipert added.
Falsifying vaccination cards is a crime that can land someone a fine and five years of prison time.
News of the false cards comes as cities across the U.S. have begun to mandate proof of vaccination via vaccine cards in restaurants, theaters and other indoor businesses.
The newest requirement by localities was driven in part by the spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus, which has shown to penetrate the vaccine, causing breakthrough infections. However, the majority of those with breakthrough infections have reported mild symptoms.
Matthew Dyman, a public affairs specialist for CBP, told The Hill he has looked to see if fake vaccine cards were confiscated by border patrol agents in other areas, “but as of right now the cards are only being found shipped through Memphis.”
The cards have been found only in Memphis because it is the "shipping hub location" for CBP and "has the ability to screen cargo," Dyman said.
Updated 10:30 p.m.