The CDC doesn't seem concerned about this dangerous vaccine card hack

Scammers gonna scam. We don’t need to enable them.


Since the beginning of the vaccine rollout, there has been a slew of scams. In December, a man in Italy went so far as to use a fake arm to avoid vaccination, but most people just buy fake cards. The black market for fake vax cards has been the subject of a lot of controversy, like the shady nurses in Long Island who made millions selling fakes. Unfortunately, it’s come to my attention that there’s an easier way for people to dodge getting vaccinated and still be treated as if they have: You can apparently download an authentic CDC vaccine card and print it out at home.

That’s right. Blank vaccine cards have been available on the CDC’s website since late 2020. While part of me is laughing heartily in the face of anyone who paid hundreds for a fake card, most of me is crying in exasperation. What is the CDC thinking?

Unfortunately, we can’t be sure because the CDC did not respond to Mic’s request for comment, nor have they reportedly responded to several other journalists including the GRID, an online news source who broke this story. Frankly, I’m not sure I even want to hear the bureaucratic blather that may ensue, but I feel like it’s my job as a citizen to inform the CDC that they are making it really easy for scammers to scam.

This problem, while not widely reported on, is apparently not new. Last April, public health experts urged the CDC to make blank vaccine cards less easily duplicated. "CDC has consistently advised states not to post the vaccine card template publicly," CDC spokesperson Kate Grusich told NBC. Okay, but it’s not just states. The template is literally on the CDC’s own website. I’m only not including links or search terms here because I actually care about public health and I don’t want to make it any easier for malicious cretins.

I asked a few friends with differing computer skills to time themselves searching for an authentic CDC vaccine card template without giving them any further information. My partner — an extremely search savvy journalist — found the file in 10 seconds. Most people I asked were able to find a high quality file in less than three minutes, with the exception of a very poetic marine biologist friend who instead sent me rainbow slides of microorganisms.

Just because you have a blank vaccine card template doesn’t mean you have all the information you need to make a fake card or get it into a legal database, though, right? Theoretically, but again, there are literally step-by-step instructions for how to fake that on approximately a zillion websites. I feel sure that basically anyone with any connection to the internet could make a fake vax card in less than 10 minutes, and while you may not be able to get your fake vax put into your state database, you could definitely use a fake card to get into a lot of public places that I and my responsible, vaccinated brethren frequent.

People have been pointing out how absurd the whole paper vax card situation is for months, and some experts think that it’s probably too late for the U.S. to actually crack down on them. Honestly, how could we? As a dear friend said after she found the vax card file in 45 seconds, “The card is coming from inside the house lol.”